SALT LAKE CITY — The 13th-ranked Westminster College men’s basketball team overcame a sluggish first half to defeat Montana Western, 84-63, on Saturday in the Behnken Field House. The game was the Frontier Conference opener for each team.
Westminster (9-1, 1-0 Frontier) trailed 32-31 at halftime and was shooting just 39.3 percent at the break. They were outscored by Montana Western (7-4, 0-1) 9-3 over the final four minutes of the half and allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 56.5 percent during the first 20 minutes.
“We defended much better in the second half,” head coach Adam Hiatt said. “We responded much better in the second half and got to all the 50/50 balls.”
The Griffins would get things going in the second half, outscoring Western 53-31 after halftime. After Kris Castro gave UMW a 34-33 lead with two free throws just 30 seconds into the half, Westminster ran off a 15-3 run over the next five minutes to open up a 48-37 advantage. After Western got back within five with 12:54 to play, the Griffins put the game away with a 23-4 run over the next six minutes to open up a 24 point lead with 6:24 remaining.
Westminster finished the game shooting 50.8 percent from the floor after shooting 59.5 percent in the second half. The Griffins scored 42 points in the paint and also made eight treys on 22 attempts (36.4 percent). The Griffins held a 33-31 edge on the boards and scored 17 points from 12 offensive rebounds. Westminster scored 31 points from 23 Western turnovers and had 16 fast break points.
Jordan Hayter led four Griffins in double figures with 13 points. His third double-digit performance of the season came of 5-of-12 shooting with one three. Alex Drecksel filled the box score with 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Drecksel shot 6-of-7 from the floor and had zero turnovers. Colton Moon made four threes for 12 points and Jordan Bjornberg had 12 points off the bench.
“I felt Drecksel was getting his hands on every ball in the second half,” Hiatt said of the senior. “We had to ride out the spark that he gave us.”
Vince Turk led UMW with 12 points and seven rebounds. Tyler Miller finished with 11 points, and Gabe Rucker added 10 off the bench.
Westminster returns to action Dec. 18 when it faces California-Merced at 8 p.m. in Merced, Calif. The Griffins hold their first-ever Alumni Game on Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. in the Behnken Field House.