HELENA — Dane Warp, Jovan Sljivancanin and Ifeanyi Okeke combined for 63 points and the No. 9-ranked Carroll College Fighting Saints handled Montana Western 83-75 on Friday night in the PE Center in front of a crowd of 1,492.
“We had to earn that one,” Saints coach Kurt Paulson told Rewind 94.9 in his postgame interview. “They wouldn’t go away. We had to really execute down the stretch and make free throws and go hard.”
Carroll (16-6, 7-3 Frontier Conference) hungered to score in the paint and established their presence there early on. Paulson emplored his squad to attack the basket and the Saints responded. Carroll outscored the Bulldogs 48-28 in the interior.
The Saints also showed they would not be schooled twice. Western (9-11, 2-7) came in and shocked the Saints back on January 17, delivering CC its first conference blemish during an 80-74 loss.
On Friday night, the Saints exorcised those past demons and held Western’s top scorer, James Jones, without a point.
“Two words: Shamrock Campbell,” Paulson said of how the Saints stopped Jones. “He did a great job on him. That was the adjustment we made. We had a little more help defense. Our guys bought into the gameplan.”
Sljivancanin led the Saints with 23 points and 11 rebounds, posting his 14th double-double of the season.
Okeke scored a career-high 20 points, posting a second consecutive game with double figures scoring. The rising freshman went 10-for-11 from the field, finishing multiple dunks in the post and added five assists.
“He’s really stepped up,” Paulson said of Okeke. “He’s a big man who can pass and our guys are finding him for some dropoff dunks.
Warp scored 20 points and had a game-high six assists.
“We knew we needed two big wins,” Warp said of the Saints going 2-0 this week.
The Bulldogs had a game-high 26 points from Max Clark, who hit 7-of-11 three-pointers.
Carroll avenged its only home loss of the season on Friday and will look to continue down the right course during February. That begins next week with a home game against Montana Tech on Wednesday.