Mathias Ward, Paul Egwuonwu

Montana forward Mathias Ward done for year after undergoing foot surgery

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Wayne Tinkle’s Montana Grizzlies have managed to hang onto sole possession of first place in the Big Sky despite late-season injuries to seniors Will Cherry and Mathias Ward.

And if the Grizzlies are to win the Big Sky tournament next week they’ll have to do so without their best front court player, as Ward underwent surgery on his foot Wednesday. As a result of the procedure the 6-7 senior’s college career is over, leaving a major hole in Montana’s front court rotation.

In 24 games this season Ward averaged 14.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, shooting 51% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Ward, the team’s leading scorer, hasn’t played since suffering the injury in a February 16 win at Idaho State.

“It was a deal where we were thinking about his future and getting that surgery done so that he might have opportunities to play in the future,” Tinkle said in a statement released by the school.

“It’s just too bad it had to happen late in the season in his senior year. We will definitely miss him out on the floor.”

With Ward sidelined Montana has won two of the three games that he’s missed, averaging 81.3 points per game. In wing Kareem Jamar the Grizzlies have one of the Big Sky’s best players, and with both Ward and Cherry out players such as Jordan Gregory and Keron DeShields have been asked to raise their offensive production.

Spencer Coleman and Mike Weisner have seen an increase in their minutes due to Ward’s injury, with Coleman averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over the last three games.

Montana expects Cherry, who re-injured the foot he broke before the season began in an overtime loss at Davidson, to return for the Big Sky tournament. If the senior guard hits the ground running when he returns and both Coleman and Weisner take advantage of their increased opportunities inside, the Grizzlies will be capable of repeating as Big Sky champions.

But given the depth that Weber State has at its disposal, the loss of Ward makes Montana’s quest all the more difficult.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.