Grizzlies hope to spoil Porter's return to Plachy Hall
Open RMAC play against No. 14 Metro State
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Now that a solid, yet somewhat up-and-down preseason is in the books, the time to get an early leg up on the rest of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference West Division is now for the Adams State College men’s basketball team as the Grizzlies start conference play by playing host to two of the best teams in the East Division on Friday and Saturday nights in Plachy Hall.
The first opponent to visit will be the always tough Metro State College Roadrunners. The 3-time defending RMAC Tournament Champions have won two NCAA Division II National Champions and have been to the Elite 8 on five different occasions in the last seven years, including last year. They were tabbed as sixth best team in the nation according to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Preseason Poll but moved down to 20th after dropping two of three games on a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Hawai’i.
Coach Mike Dunlap’s squad, 3-2 overall, has been idle since then but did move back up to 14th in this week’s NABC rankings.
The Regis University Rangers and Coach Lonnie Porter, an ASC Hall of Famer, then enter Plachy Hall on Saturday night after playing at Fort Lewis College Friday. Porter, whose retired jersey #20 dons the walls of Plachy Hall, and the Rangers are 2-3 thus far and went 1-1 at last week’s Chuck Stephens Memorial Classic in Pueblo.
Both games tip-off around 8 p.m. following the women’s 6 o’clock games with the same teams and can be heard on KSPK-FM (103.5 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.
The Larry Mortensen coached Grizzlies sport a 2-2 record heading into the weekend and are coming off an impressive 26-point win over Wayne State (Neb.) at last weekend’s Fort Lewis Iron Horse Inn Classic in Durango. Wayne State had defeated Nebraska-Kearney just before Thanksgiving.
A night before, the Grizzlies played tough but dropped a 72-61 decision to Grand Canyon (Ariz.), now 7-1 on the year heading into a Thursday night game at Western New Mexico. A week ealier, ASC dropped a 12-point decision at Eastern New Mexico, a game that Mortensen admits was not a good one for his relatively new and young squad, that includes just one senior and six junior college transfers.
The team’s lone senior, Greg Baker, a 6-foot-4 Lewisville, Texas product, is averaging 16.8 points per game, the seventh best mark in the RMAC. He had a team-high 18 in the win over Wayne State and scored a game-high 15 in a season-opening 60-47 win over Lubbock Christian in front of the home crowd.
Forward Roman Moniak (Sacramento, Calif.) is not far behind with an 11.3 point per game average. The 6-foot-4 San Joaquin Delta College transfer is also averaging a double-double with 10.0 rebounds per game while leading the RMAC in offensive rebounds. Junior wing Wes Jensen (Molalla, Ore.) has canned 10 treys so far while sophomores Marcus Mortensen (Cortez, Colo.) and Larry Charles, Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.) have split time at the point guard position recording a combined 26 assists.
The Roadrunners, class of the RMAC in recent memory, appear to be somewhat vulnerable this year, but are still quite talented. Winners of 41 straight at home, Larry Mortensen and the Grizzlies are certainly happy to have them making the trip to Plachy Hall for the first time since Dec. 12, 2003. ASC defeated the Roadrunners during the 1998-99 season but have just three wins in 17 all-time meetings, including just one in the last 11 games.
Dunlap returned just one starter and five letterwinners from last year’s team that went 29-4, a group that accounted for just over 20 percent of the team’s scoring. However, the Roadrunners do lay claim to RMAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Drew Williamson and the league’s preseason freshman of the year in Marquise Carrington.
Williamson, a 6-foot-5 senior from Thornleigh, Australia, has been quite solid offensively as well scoring a team-best 19.0 points per game, good for fourth place in this week’s RMAC statistics. He is also ranked second with his 3.60 steals per game average and fifth in free throw percentage at .867.
As a team, the Roadrunners lead the RMAC in free throw percentage with a .743 clip.
The Grizzlies are last in the RMAC at just .528, a definite concern for Coach Mortensen, who attributed the charity-stripe woes as much of the cause for the loss to Grand Canyon.
Carrington has come off the bench in all five of Metro State’s games, scoring just 2.2 points per.
The Rangers are paced by 6-foot-5 junior Brandon Butler and a trio of deadly 3-point shooters. Butler is averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game while pulling down 4.4 rebounds per contest, the second best mark on the team. Reserve guard Jay Goral has canned 11 of 20 3-pointers thus far and ranks in the RMAC in 3-point percentage while Logan Garvin and Slade Bigelow have each made eight 3-pointers on a combined 41 attempts.
The balanced squad has six different players averaging eight or more points per game, including Nick Winder, the team’s leading rebounder at 5.8 per game. Garvin and starting guard Buster Miller have nearly half of the team’s assists but have committed a combined 38 turnovers en-route to a combined 0.71 assist-to-turnover ratio. In comparison, Marcus Mortensen and Charles, Jr. have a combined 2.17 assist-to-turnover ratio.
They are also quite aggressive on defense recording more than 10 steals per game as a team while allowing opponents to shoot 51 percent from the field, the second highest mark in the RMAC.
Conversely, the Grizzlies lead the RMAC in field goal percentage defense at 34.1 and also pace the RMAC in rebounding and are second behind 7-1 Fort Hays State in scoring defense.
The Rangers hold a 7-2 advantage in ASC’s NCAA Division II era (1992-Present) series. However, the Rangers have not ventured into Plachy Hall since Jan. 4, 2003, when ASC won 70-63.