HELENA — No. 2 Carroll College men's basketball team and No. 16 Montana Western combined for a physical affair, but the Saints showed their poise and pulled away in the second half for a 77-63 win on Thursday in the PE Center.
Ryan Imhoff led all scorers with 21 points on 9 of 25 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, four assists.
With Carroll students still on winter break, the PE Center still swelled with 1,737 in attendance to see one of the premiere matchups in the Frontier Conference. Carroll didn’t disappoint, improving the best start in school history to 15-0 and 3-0 in conference.
Western fell to 11-3 and 1-3 in the Frontier.
Marcus Payne picked up two quick fouls to start the second half, and immediately went to the bench. The Bulldogs had pulled within three when Payne shoved Matt Wyman to the floor. After that play, Wyman drove at Payne and Payne nudged him with hand check. Payne fouled out later, but it was the frustrations from the Bulldogs that became pivotal.
As the game’s tension rose, the Bulldogs wilted long enough for the Saints to build a double-digit lead. Carroll’s defense stiffened and the Saints, with 10:23 left, went on a 10-2 run to build a 10-point lead that the Bulldogs never could recover from. The lead grew to as many as 14 before Western cut into it.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
A tipped pass from Imhoff led to a steal by Ife Kalejaiye, generating a runout and dunk in transition by Imhoff, pushing Carroll’s lead to 71-57.
Western coach Steve Keller immediately called for redshirt freshman Collin Achenbach to be inserted into the game, effectively a waving of the white flag.
The next Saints possession, Match Burnham buried a fall-away three with the time ticking down to cement the win.
In addition to Imhoff’s performance, guards Kalejaiye and Lorel Johnson also had big outings. Kalejaiye finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Johnson had 13 points. Alex Santos finished with 6 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
STATS THAT STAND OUT
Five assists: Western recorded only five assists on the game, showing perhaps some growing pain as the team moves on without injured guard/forward Riley King and mixes in junior college transfers.
Carroll hosts No. 10-ranked Lewis-Clark State College on Saturday in the PE Center.