The Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team arrived in Dillon, Mont., one win away from capturing the Frontier Conference regular season title—and left there the same way on Friday. The No. 5-ranked Warriors were upended by No. 22 Montana Western 74-58.
“We didn’t come out with the energy and focus it takes to be successful in this conference tonight,” said LCSC head coach Brandon Rinta.
The Warriors, now 25-4 overall and 10-4 in league play, were outshot 50 percent to 37 percent and outrebounded 39-28 and the result was a deficit as large as 21 in the first half and 29 in the second.
The 16-point loss is the widest margin of defeat for LCSC this season.
“Western played extremely well and deserves a lot of credit. They are playing as well as anyone in the league right now and maybe even the nation.”
Montana Western, having completed its regular-season schedule, stands at 11-5 in league play (21-8 overall). LCSC will play its final regular-season game on Saturday in Helena, Mont., against Carroll (1-14, 2-24) at 6:30 p.m., PT. If the Warriors beat Carroll they’ll win the conference title, if they lose, Montana Western will take the crown.
Western, now riding a five-game win streak, was led on Friday by Tyler Miller and Jake Owsley. Miller had 18 points and five rebounds, and Owsley added 13 points and six boards. Six other Bulldog players scored five points or more.
The Bulldogs shot 7-of-17 from the outside, led 38-20 in the paint, and had a huge 17-2 advantage in second chance points.
Kale Schmidt made 4-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc to lead LCSC, which entered the game on a four-game win streak, with 15 points. P.J. Bolte and Jacob Champoux had 10 points apiece.
“We have got to find a way to bounce back tomorrow. This is going to be a quick turnaround. But I’m glad it’s that way. This is a competitive group of guys that know we are better than we played tonight. We get an opportunity to prove that tomorrow.”
A win for the Warriors on Saturday would bring more than just bragging rights. The title winner earns the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament. Also, if the Warriors lose to Carroll they could drop to third in the standings which would mean they would not receive one of the first round byes reserved for the top two seeds.