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Jan 6, 2013 12:47 AM by Q2 Sports

Cherry stars as Griz stay unbeaten in Big Sky

MISSOULA - The University of Montana's "Big Three" combined for 41 points as the Grizzlies remained undefeated in Big Sky Conference play with a hard-fought 62-55 victory over the Portland State Vikings Saturday evening in UM's Dahlberg Arena.

Senior guard Will Cherry, junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar, and senior forward Mathias Ward, Montana's three returning starters from its 27-5 and league championship team from a year ago, tallied 16, 14, and 11 points to lead the way for the Griz.

The Grizzlies improved to 4-0 in league and 8-4 overall, and they have now won 17 straight Big Sky games. The Vikings are 3-8/1-3. It was Montana's eighth win in a row over PSU.

Montana stays tied with Weber State (4-0/9-3) for the league lead, and Southern Utah is also perfect in conference play with a 3-0 ledger.

It looked like the Grizzlies had the game in hand early in the second half, as when Ward nailed a three-pointer he gave Montana a 17-point lead (40-23) - its largest of the game with 16:35 remaining in the game.

Montana did maintain a double-digit lead for the next seven-plus minutes, but PSU cut the margin to eight points (45-37) with 9:17 left to play on a pair of free throws by senior forward Renado Parker.

The Vikings whittled the Grizzlies' lead down to just six points with 1:01 to go, but Cherry converted two free throws in a one-and-one situation, and sophomore guard Jordan Gregory had two -one-and-one opportunities in the late going, and he made all four of his attempts to thwart PSU's comeback bid.

The game was close throughout the first half, but the Griz, leading by just 16-15 at the 5:25 mark, out-scored the Vikes 8-0 and took a 24-15 advantage on two free throws by sophomore guard Keron DeShields with 3:41 left until intermission. UM went on to take a 35-21 halftime lead, thanks in large part to Cherry's 11 points and 6 assists.

Gregory and DeShields added 6 points each for the Griz, while Jamar pulled down a team-high 7 rebounds, and Ward and Gregory had 6 caroms each.

Junior forward Aaron Moore led PSU with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Parker had 12 points and 7 boards.

The Grizzlies, who entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in free throw percentage, were 18-of-20 (90.0%) from the line (PSU was 11-of-16 for 68.8%). Montana made 11-of-12 (91.7%) charity shots in the second half. The Vikings out-rebounded the Grizzlies 34-30.

Cherry now has 1,239 career points moving him up to 11th in school history, as he passed Lou Rocheleau (12th with 1,235 points, 1946-49) and Daren Engellant (13th with 1,224 points, 1989-92)

Montana is on the road next week for two Big Sky games, playing at North Dakota in a 7:05 p.m. tip-off on Thursday, Jan. 10, and then they are at Northern Colorado for a 4:35 (Mtn.) start on Saturday, Jan. 12.

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