Grizzlies hope to make history against long-distance travelling Lopers
ALAMOSA, Colo.— The Adams State College men’s basketball team will travel 1,476 miles to play two Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference road games in 47 hours next week but hopes Grizzlies to take advantage of an even longer jaunt this week as the 6-3 University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers pay visit to Plachy Hall for a key RMAC match-up on Saturday night at 8 o’clock.
UNK, a perfect 3-0 in the RMAC thus far, will travel 848 miles to Durango and Fort Lewis’ Whalen Gymnasium for a Friday night pairing of divisional leaders before stopping for the game with ASC, just 24 hours later, on the return trip.
The Lopers, used to the plains of central Nebraska, must also deal with the elevation and will be both of their games over 6,800 feet above sea level, a fact that ASC Coach Larry Mortensen is well aware off.
The Grizzlies also hope to take advantage of the rare single-game weekend in what could be a history making night.
ASC has never defeated UNK in 16 all-time meetings, 12 of which have come in the NCAA Division II era (1992-Present). If the Grizzlies play like they have in previous home games of this season, 2006 could very well be ASC’s year. If they play like they did in their last two games, historians will likely not even blink an eye.
The Grizzlies, 5-6 overall, struggled in a pair of non-conference losses to NAIA squads at the last weekend’s Lubbock Christian University Chap Classic. However, the same team is a perfect 3-0 at home and had won four of five games, including a historic weekend sweep of Metro State, ranked 14th in the nation at the time, and Regis on Dec. 9-10, in December.
Mortensen is also proud of the team’s solid 3-1 conference mark, an important fact that he reminded his players after the disappointing New Year’s Eve weekend. Currently second in the RMAC West Division a game behind Fort Lewis (4-0 RMAC), the Grizzlies could be in a first place tie in the entire 14-team RMAC by Saturday night should everything fall into place.
The Lopers, heavily reliant on RMAC Preseason Player of the Year Dusty Jura, are in a slightly better position and as of Thursday morning are tied with hated rival Fort Hays State (10-1, 3-0 RMAC), ranked 15th in the country, for first place in the RMAC East Division. Both are just a half-game behind Fort Lewis in the early portions of the race for the regular season championship and the top seed in the RMAC Wells Fargo Shootout.
Jura, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior forward, is averaging 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for the Lopers, who are 5-0 at home, but just 1-3 on the road. Jura is ranked fourth in the RMAC in scoring and third in rebounding. Throw in his solid 57.3 percent field goal percentage, the seventh best mark in the conference, and his team-high 34 assists, a 3.78 per game average that is ninth best in the RMAC, and the Grizzlies know he will be tough to stop.
The Columbus, Neb. native and transfer from Division I Northern Iowa, is not the only Loper that can do damage. Chris Dean, James Lane and Chad Burger are all averaging in double figures for the Lopers, who lead the RMAC in scoring at 79.0 points per game. Dean, a 6-foot-6 senior forward averages 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while Lane is pouring in 12.4 points per game, aided by his team-high 15 treys. Burger, coming in to the weekend with 11.8 point and 6.4 rebound per game average, is not the man that the Grizzlies want to see at the free throw line. He leads the RMAC with a 92.3 success rate for the stripe.
The Grizzlies counter with one of the best defenses in the RMAC and the scoring presences of Greg Baker (Lewisville, Texas), Roman Moniak (Sacramento, Calif.) and Wes Jensen (Molalla, Ore.). Baker leads the team with a 14.3 point per game average and went off for a pair of 20-point efforts en-route to RMAC/Baden West Division Player of the Week honors after a weekend split at Colorado Christian and Colorado Mines.
Moniak is scoring 11.6 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding with a 6.3 per game mark. Jensen is ASC’s 3-point specialist and has already made 26, a 2.36 per game average that puts him fourth in the RMAC. The 6-foot-6 junior wing made five alone in a Dec. 19 game at Division I Utah wile scoring a game and career-high 17 points.
The patient Grizzlies are ranked fourth in the RMAC in scoring defense and third in field goal percentage defense allowing opponents to score just 63.1 points per game while shooting just 42.6 percent from the field. The Lopers are in the middle of the pack in both categories but lead the RMAC in rebounding, a fact that gives has given them plenty of extra possessions throughout the campaign.
The Grizzlies will be without a large portion of the ASC student-body as the spring semester does not start until Monday. Mortensen is hoping that the San Luis Valley Community can help pick up the slack.
Those that can not make the RMAC doubleheader, starting with the women’s game between the two schools at 6 o’clock, can listen to both games on KSPK-FM (103.5 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.