BUTTE – The Montana Tech men’s basketball took a huge step in the right direction, closing out the inaugural Tech Tip-Off Tournament with an 88-80 win over Dickinson State University, Saturday night at the HPER Complex.
With it came a trip to Wendy’s for Tech coach Adam Hiatt and his family.
The Hiatt family made it a tradition to visit the local Wendy’s restaurant after a big win when Hiatt was coaching at Westminster University a few years ago.
Those trips were rare last season as the Orediggers struggled through a 1-16 conference campaign last season.
“All last year, my kids were like, ‘Dad, when are we going to Wendy’s?’” Hiatt recalled. “The first thing they said after (Saturday’s) game was ‘We’re going to Wendy’s!’
“We’re pretty excited about that.”
The Hiatt family would like to continue that tradition as the season rolls on but the coach is hoping to see other positives continue.
Saturday night was a step in the right direction on both counts.
Chris O’Neill scored 27 points and John Chapman added 20 to pace Tech against Dickinson State. It’s the same Dickinson State squad that pushed 8th-ranked Montana Western into overtime on Friday night before losing.
The Orediggers more than held their own against a feisty Blue Hawks team and looked good doing it. They drained 14 3-point baskets, with O’Neill and Chapman hitting four apiece.
Tech seemed to have an answer for every comeback attempt put forth by the athletic Dickinson squad.
The Orediggers closed out the first half with consecutive baskets from Dylan Pannabecker and took a 36-32 lead into the break.
Tech opened the second half with a surge that stretched its lead into double-digits and kept Dickinson at an arm’s length throughout the final 20 minutes.
“We felt like we needed a signature win for our program that could help our guys see (that) the direction that we’re heading is the right direction,” Hiatt said. “All the talk in the world and all of the practice in the world and all of the wins against inferior opponents just doesn’t build that same buy-in. So this was a good opportunity for us against an extremely talented team and we came through in the clutch. Our guys, I think, are starting to believe that.
“Where this takes us? I don’t know. But it’s a step in the right direction.”
Tech used the 40-minutes of basketball to put on a passing clinic, one that led to array of open shots from within the paint and beyond the 3-point line.
The Orediggers also turned up the defensive pressure on the Blue Hawks, who got a game-high 21 points from Brian Neal. That pressure was crucial against Dickinson.
“We saw some early Dickinson film from last week,” Hiatt said. “We saw how talented they were. We saw them play against Montana Western (Friday). We were watching that video and figured we’d better be dialed in defensively or we’re not going to have a chance against these guys.”
Montana Tech never trailed by more than five points in the contest – with 5:53 left in the first half – but outscored Dickinson State 16-7 to end the half.
A 15-4 run to start the second half gave the Orediggers a 10-point lead (54-44) and led by at least that much the rest of the way.
The Blue Hawks trimmed their deficit to nine points on a 3-pointer by Carter Gallo before the Orediggers proceeded to build their largest lead of the game (17).
The only other time that Tech’s lead dipped below 10 points came on Terrell Butler’s 3 with 15.2 seconds left in the game.
“It seemed like in the first half we were locked in, we made life difficult for them, we took them out of some things they wanted to do and made them adjust,” Hiatt said. “They did adjust in the second half and got to the foul line a lot more but we made enough plays on offense to keep the lead and to keep the pressure on them.”
NO. 8 MONTANA WESTERN 124,
NUETA HIDATSA SAHNISH 57
Warren Helligar had 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field as the Bulldogs bottled up the Storm.
Six Western players were in double figures and the Bulldogs shot 53.9 percent from the field. Collin Achenbach nearly had a triple double for Western, finishing with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.
Levi Fairbanks had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead Nueta Hidatsa. Jarren Estes had eight points, an assist and a two rebounds off the bench for the Storm.
Western led 63-33 at halftime.
MONTANA TECH 88, DICKINSON STATE 56
Sammy McGree had 15 points and four rebounds as the Oredigger women’s basketball team routed the Blue Hawks.
Tech led by just two points after the first quarter, but outscored DSU by 10 points in the second to take a comfortable lead into halftime. The Blue Hawks shot just 2-of-18 from behind the arc and struggled to get its offense going against the tough ‘Digger defense.
Tech, meanwhile, shot 43 percent for the game. The Diggers spread the ball around and only two players were in double figures.
Jennifer Burnham registered a double-double for DSU, scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 boards in 35 minutes.
NO. 16 MONTANA WESTERN 98,
NUETA HIDATSA SAHNISH 44
Britt Cooper had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulldogs whipped the Storm.
Jill Jacobs had 11 points off the bench on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Western shot 45.8 percent from the field.
The Storm had just 14 points at halftime and 22 through three quarters. Jess Hale had 18 points and four rebounds to lead Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish.