Montana, Montana State basketball teams set for first Brawl of the Wild meeting of season

Posted at 2:02 PM, Jan 19, 2024

BOZEMAN — The Montana and Montana State men's and women's basketball teams are set for their first Brawl of the Wild meeting this Saturday at Worthington Arena.

"It’s so (much more) physical than any of the other games," MSU men's forward Sam Lecholat explained. "That alone will just catch you off guard and throw you off your toes. I remember, you’re trying to box someone out in the paint, and then they just throw you and nobody calls it. You’re like, ‘OK, this is how it’s going to go. It’s going to be a fist fight.’"

The Montana State men have a new look this season but are building off a sweep of the Grizzlies last year in the series.

"It’s very fueling, knowing that they beat us twice last year," Griz senior guard Brandon Whitney said. "And they won it (the Big Sky championship). It’s very fueling, and I feel like we just want our revenge. At least I do."

Although it’s Bobcats coach Matt Logie’s first season at the helm and first Cat-Griz meeting, he has three decades of history with Griz coach Travis DeCuire, who's in his 10th season leading the program.

Logie’s grandfather was DeCuire’s head coach at Mercer High School in the Seattle area — where Logie was the ball boy. Years later, DeCuire came back to coach at his alma mater while Logie was then a player on the team.

"(I’m) happy to see him at this level," DeCuire said. "Unfortunately, he’s a rival now, so we now have a love-hate relationship, instead of a love-love relationship."

"I’ve known Travis since I was 8 years old," Logie explained. "We have, you know, a long history together in the game, and he’s someone I have a great deal of respect for. And, it will be something I know my grandfather will be smiling down."

Montana's Mack Konig, right, drives to the basket while Montana State's Madison Jackson defends during the Brawl of the Wild on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023 at Worthington Arena.

Over on the women’s side, they’re also prepared for what is normally the loudest and most emotional environment of the season.

"I think it’s just preparing them for the level of energy, that it feels different," Bobcats coach Tricia Binford said. "You know, you try and take every game like it’s any other game. I tried to do that early in my career and it didn’t work very well, so you just kind of own it."

"I think emotions are a little more heightened, and it is a big game for us," Lady Griz senior guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw said. "But for us, it’s just looking forward to the next game and trying to get the job done on the road."

The MSU women also went 2-0 in the Cat-Griz series last season. But, both teams have a handful of new faces that will add a new chapter in this long-fought rivalry on Saturday.

"We want to win, and there’s no question they want to win," Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger said. "They don’t want us to win. It’s a mental thing for us and our program. We have a lot of new kids that I don’t even think really know to be honest, and so do they. So, it’s kind of a different feel now than it was the last two years.”

One of the veterans that will take the court is fifth-year guard Madison Hall from MSU, and she had no trouble putting into words the pride you develop for the school you represent over your time in college.

"You know, coming in as a freshman, I would see the seniors say, ‘I bleed blue and gold," Hall explained. "And now I understand really what that means. I would do anything for this school. Just having pride and integrity, and really loving your college has become more and more and more over the years, for me, anyways."

The women tip off at 2 p.m., and the men at 7 at Worthington Arena. The games will be broadcast on the MTN channel.