MISSOULA – Montana’s length and physicality helped slow down Eastern Washington forward Kim Aiken Jr. on Thursday, again holding the typically high-scoring junior to single digits in an emotional, foul-filled contest.
A Grizzlies cheerleader even got a piece of Aiken at roaring Dahlberg Arena.
In the second half of the Eagles’ 92-82 loss – a game in which officials called an inordinate 55 fouls and six technicals between the Big Sky Conference rivals – Aiken attempted to save a ball out of bounds near Montana’s student section and in the middle of a group of cheerleaders.
A cheerleader – pompom in hand – proceeded to shove Aiken away from the group, resulting in her ejection. She and a male cheerleader appeared to be escorted from the court following the altercation.
Aiken, visibly surprised by the shove, immediately looked to the officials as he signaled a push before he was separated from the crowd.
League-leading Montana (13-10, 9-3 Big Sky) was called for 29 total fouls and three technicals, and EWU (15-7, 8-3) totaled 26 fouls with technicals on Aiken, Jacob Davison and head coach Shantay Legans.
“It’s kind of what comes with this game,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said of the emotional nature of the Grizzlies’ and Eagles’ Big Sky rivalry. “And I thought we did a good job of not losing composure as a unit.”
Legans’ technical foul was issued with one second left when the game was already decided.
“You don’t want to end a good basketball game in a bad sense, and I did that with my technical foul, which was stupid,” Legans said. “My players probably took the lead from me, so I have to be better.”
Big night for Davison: The junior guard and Big Sky’s fourth-leading scorer (18.6 points per game) had the third-best scoring night of his career in Thursday’s loss, totaling a game-high 34 points.
Davison scored 39 points in a victory against North Dakota in December and 41 in a win over Northern Arizona last season.
Davison is 14 points from reaching 1,000 in his career, a feat senior forward Mason Peatling recently accomplished.
Pridgett continues tear against EWU: Since Montana standout guard Sayeed Pridgett stepped foot in Missoula as a freshman in the fall of 2016, he’s 6-3 against the Eagles and has had a big hand in most of the wins.
Pridgett, the Big Sky’s second-leading scorer (19 ppg) had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Thurday’s win, a month after totaling 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a 90-63 win in Cheney.
The senior averages 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in nine career games against EWU.
Eagles tied for second: EWU briefly led the Big Sky, but Thursday’s loss put the Eagles in a tie for second in the standings with Northern Colorado (15-7, 8-3), a team the Eagles defeated 89-84 in overtime last month in Cheney.
Montana State on deck: When EWU hosts Montana State (12-10, 6-5) on Saturday, it will be the Eagles’ fourth game in eight days.
EWU beat Montana State 71-58 in Bozeman last month and has won 10 of its past 13 meetings against the Bobcats.
Montana State is led by first-year coach Danny Sprinkle and the league’s fourth-leading scorer, senior guard Harold Frey (17.7 ppg).
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