Thursday's home game couldn't have come at a better time for the Westminster men's basketball team.
And facing an opponent situated near the bottom of the league standings made it all the better.
After plummeting in the NAIA rankings from eighth to 24th following two road losses in the past couple of weeks, the Griffins bounced back with a solid effort at Behnken Field House. They hit 64 percent of their shots in the first half and rolled to a 77-60 win over Montana Western.
"They played hard," said Westminster coach Tommy Connor. "I
thought we needed a home game, and I was proud of our guys."
Senior point guard Danny Reeder topped four Westminster players in double figures with 17 points. Thirteen of his points and all three of his 3-pointers came in the first half for the Griffins, who were coming off of their worst defeat of the season.
"The loss that we had we didn't play very hard," said Reeder of
Saturday's 80-66 setback at Montana State-Northern, "and I think we
corrected that tonight."
Westminster really turned it up at the end of the opening half, outscoring the Bulldogs during a seven-minute stretch 16-2. That helped the Griffins take a 43-31 lead into the locker room against a team they dominated on the road, 103-60.
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the first half to stay close and even lead for a bit, but the Griffins clamped down and held them to just 32 percent shooting in the second half.
"I thought defensively at first we were struggling, but they also
were doing some good things, making some tough shots," Connor said.
"Then we really picked it up and guarded."
The Bulldogs clawed within five in the second half, but Westminster had too much firepower and quickly turned it into a blowout with a 14-4 run capped by eight inside points from Nate Sanchez.
Connor was particularly pleased with the Griffins' ball distribution. Reeder, the NAIA assists leader, dished out seven assists, Jordan Jacobs added four and the team ended with 18 on 30 shots with only seven turnovers. They also shot 54.5 percent for the game.
The Griffins also shared the scoring load as Blair Prowse and Danny Stosich each contributed 14 points apiece, and Sanchez had
"I thought we were efficient offensively," Connor said, "so it was a good win."
The win upped Westminster's Frontier Conference record to 8-3 (18-5 overall), keeping them within a game of league-leading Rocky Mountain with three regular-season games left. Westminster plays at Rocky Mountain next Thursday night.
The Griffins host last place Montana Tech on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in what will be the last home game in Reeder's productive Westminster career.Aaron Sims had a game-high 22 points for the Bulldogs (9-16, 2-9).