Still searching for a signature non-conference win, Idaho State runs right into the same University of Utah team they upset last year for the Bengals' biggest non-conference victory. Three big differences this time, though: 1) the game is in Salt Lake, rather than Holt Arena; 2) Matt Stucki, who came within one assist and one rebound from dropping a triple-double on Utah last year, is in Europe; and 3) the Utes are stinging from their 83-76 loss to Weber State Tuesday night.
The Bengals are coming off a loss at Notre Dame in which they played fairly well, trailing by only 3 at halftime, before the Irish ran off a 25-7 run to put the game out of reach. After seven games, certain patterns are starting to emerge for ISU: Demetrius Monroe is probably going to lead them in rebounding, Amorrow Morgan is likely going to lead them in scoring, and any other significant assistance is going to come from either Broderick Gilchrest or Austin Kilpatrick. Which means if the 2-5 Bengals are going to improve significantly and compete with the Utes Saturday night, they need someone else (Deividas Busma, Donnie Carson, Chron Tatum?) to step up.
The Utes clearly have issues themselves. They have sandwiched big wins over nationally-ranked Illinois and a good Utah State team between losses to mid-majors like Idaho, Seattle University and Weber State. Statistically, Utah is a reflection of its 3-4 record -- they aren't overtly deficient in any particular area, but they don't dominate any phase of the game, either. They have three players who score in double figures, but nobody who averages more than 13 or has scored more than 22 points in a contest. About the only thing that really jumps out at you when you look at their stat sheet is blocked shots -- led by 7-3 C David Foster (above), who had 10 against Weber, the Utes average over 5 blocks a contest.
If the Bengals are going to get their trophy win Saturday night, they'll need to get out of the gate early, like they did last year when they led by nine at half on the strength of 62 percent shooting. Weber also got off to a good start against the Utes Wednesday night, shooting 52 percent in the first half. The Wildcats cooled off to 38 percent in the second, but were able to hold on thanks to a 15-for-17 parade to the foul line in the final period.
As ISU tries to snag a big win, the rest of the Big Sky Conference continues to make some noise during non-conference play. In addition to Weber's victory, Portland State stunned No. 25 Portland on the road Wednesday night, and Sac State edged neighborhood rival Cal-Davis. So far this season Big Sky teams have assembled a fairly impressive slate of non-conference scalps: Sac State won at Oregon State, Montana at Oregon and over Boise State at home, Montana State got a victory at San Francisco, Northern Arizona won at Santa Clara and unbeaten Northern Colorado won two tournaments on the road and beat Colorado State of the Mountain West at home.
If you can't make it to Salt Lake Saturday night, Jerry Miller and I will bring you all the action on KSEI, AM-930, starting with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m.
Well, it wasn't a win but it was about as close as you can come without getting one. Idaho State's women came within an in-and-out shot by Kaela Oakes with just over a second left of upsetting the University of Utah women at the Huntsman Center Wednesday night. The Utes dominated the game after it went into overtime, outscoring the Bengals 19-3.
The Bengals hung tough against the bigger, more physical Utes through 40 minutes of regulation, despite Utah's domination upfront. The Ute starting frontline put up 44 points and pulled down 30 rebounds while holding ISU center Oana Iacovita to just 2-of-11 shooting and five boards. The Bengals essentially started a four-guard lineup against the Utes and used their quickness and outside shooting to stay in the game. Chelsea Pickering was four of five from three-point range enroute to a 14-point night and Morgan Wohltman added a pair of treys and 12 points.
While the Bengals didn't get the win, it had to be encouraging to hang tough with the Utes during this brutal run of games that started at Wyoming Monday night and continues at the Arizona State tournament in Phoenix this weekend. You can always explain to your team how tough the schedule is and encourage them not to get too down during that stretch, but there's nothing like results to restore some zip to the step.
At 1-6, the Bengals aren't alone in their pre-conference struggles. Only Montana State (5-1) and Eastern Washington (4-3) have winning records in the conference, and the only wins of any import have both come at the expense of the PAC 10's Washington, who has fallen to Portland State and Sacramento State. The pre-season favorite Vikings are in the middle of a five-game losing streak and, other than MSU (3 straight) and Northern Colorado (1), nobody in the league is on a winning skein. MSU is the highest rated Big Sky team in the Sagarin Ratings at 168, with Eastern next at 199 (out of 334 teams).
Frank's Growing Celebrity Status
Check out the Eye on Sports Media site to see Frank's growing celebrity status following his "breaking" of the Charlie Weis firing press conference. Hilarious.
Dark Cloud Section: Recruits Ignore
With nods to "Go Bengals!" and "bengalfan," I note that Hofstra has become the second FCS team in the last ten days to announce it is dropping football. Seriously folks, I fully support ISU and Big Sky Conference football. I do think it prudent to observe what's going on around you, however, rather than sticking your head in the sand. Having said that, I acknowledge sometimes coming across as too negative on these topics. I'll try to lighten up in the future.
Obligatory rediculous (sic) signoff: And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.