News, notes and quotes on No. 2 Kansas’ matchup against Montana on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks (8-1) have won seven-straight games and are coming off an 82-67 comeback victory over Oregon State on Dec. 12 at Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Grizzlies (4-5), meanwhile, have won just two of their last six games and are trying to win two straight following their 79-59 home win over Great Falls on Tuesday.
Montana, which won the Big Sky regular-season title and advanced to the NIT last season, is 4-0 at home and 0-5 on the road this year. The Grizzlies average 66.9 points per game and allow 66.8 ppg, while also averaging 34.9 rebounds, 13.0 assists, 5.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per contest. They shoot 43.1 percent from the field, 28.3 percent from three-point range, and 64.4 percent at the free throw line, while holding foes to 42.6 percent shooting and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Fifth-year senior forward Martin Breunig is the team’s big gun who is fifth in the Big Sky in scoring (18.3 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.8 rpg). He shoots 61.5 percent from the field (No. 2 in league) while ranking second on the squad with five blocks. Junior guard Walter Wright is next in scoring (10.6 ppg, team-high 26 assists and 14 steals), followed by freshman guard Michael Oguine (9.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, team-best seven blocks) and junior guard Brandon Gfeller (9.7 ppg, team-high 22 three-point field goals).
Montana is coached by Travis DeCuire, who is 24-18 in his second season at his alma mater.
Kansas coach Bill Self was impressed with how Montana played at Gonzaga on Dec. 8, when the Grizzlies had a great opportunity to win yet fell 61-58.
“They've been a little bit inconsistent, kind of like us,” Self said Thursday. “They obviously had the last shot against Gonzaga at Gonzaga to send it to overtime and had the lead with a minute left, and then Gonzaga had a player, a freshman, make a couple of plays to actually give them the lead back.
“They are very good, experienced inside, (they've) got a guy that can certainly score on the block and plays well beyond his standing height, and then they've got some quick guys on the perimeter. And based on what I've been told, I don't know this to be a fact, but Norm (Roberts, assistant coach) told me this morning they've got a guy that could become eligible for our game that we haven't seen yet. It was a guy that was a starter for them last year. This will probably be the most whole they've been, if that's the case, since their season started.”
Kansas is 1-0 all time versus Montana with a 68-56 victory on Dec. 1, 1962 in Allen Fieldhouse. The season opener for KU, sophomore center George Unseld led the charge with a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds) in just 17 minutes. Senior guard Nolen Ellison, one of the fiercest competitors in school history, added 14 points.
Kansas finished at 12-13 during that 1962-63 season.
KU is 16-0 all time against current membership of the Big Sky Conference.
MORE NEEDED FROM ELLIS
Ellis ranks second on the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg) in 26.1 minutes per game. But Self wants more “activity” and “going after the ball” from the All-American candidate, who is coming off a season-high nine rebounds against Oregon State. However, Ellis has shot just 37 percent from the field in the last five games after injuring his hip against UCLA on Nov. 24.
“I think Perry Ellis is capable of playing to an All-American-type level. So what does an All-American type level play to? Well, he can't do it at his size unless he's ultra-aggressive,” Self said. "There were times last year during a three-week stretch where I thought he was a first-team All-American, playing to that level. It wasn't because he's making all his shots or because everything he did was aggressive. He was driving straight lines; he wasn't driving side to side. He's so good at driving a straight line and countering off the defense's reaction as opposed to now he's not really driving it hard so there's no counter to be made.
“I think that he is a guy that can play at such a high level, and that's what excites me about our team, is we've done okay. We haven't been great, but we've done okay, but I still don't think we've seen the best of what we can do because he's (Ellis) so important to me, to our team, because he is the one guy that can make something out of nothing when you throw it to him. All good teams have that, and I think that he'll get that. He's just been in a little bit of a funk the last couple of weeks.
"... We need him to be that,” Self added about Ellis playing to an All-American type level.