HELENA — The Montana Tech men’s basketball team hadn’t played a game in nearly three weeks.
It’s last game was when it lost to Lewis-Clark State back in Butte on Dec. 7.
But the Orediggers sure didn’t show any rust when they stepped onto the court on Friday afternoon.
Montana Tech defeated Walla Walla University 84-64 in the first game of the Carroll Classic.
“We were looking for some sustained effort from the guys,” Orediggers coach Adam Hiatt said. “We came out with a lot more energy in the second half.”
That energy propelled Montana Tech with a 20-0 run over the first six minutes of the second half.
Its once 10-point halftime lead turned into a win that was never in question.
“We just said, 'We have to jump on them,'” Orediggers forward Taylor England said. “Our legs are fresh, so we wanted to come out and just work hard.”
Montana Tech established control early by finding its rhythm after a pair of 3-point shots.
Sophomore guard Christian Jones added a third, but the Orediggers stayed wary as the Wolves kept pace.
Over the offseason, Montana Tech added a new scoring threat in transfer Sindou Diallo.
But his 21.7 points per game went quiet after he picked up his third foul in the first half.
Junior Derrius Collins answered the call, hitting a 3-pointer to extend the lead up to nine points.
He added two more buckets in the final minute before halftime and entered the locker room with a team high 17 points.
More importantly, Montana Tech held a 46-36 lead.
“Darius has been really good for us this year,” Hiatt said. “He is playing a new role on this team; instead of just being a guard, he is doing a little of everything for us.”
Not only did the Orediggers come out with purpose in the second half, but so did Collins.
He helped Montana Tech put together a 20-0 run that was capped off by an emphatic dunk by Diallo.
Despite the foul trouble in the first half, Diallo’s presence did not go unnoticed, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Walla Walla closed the gap down to as little as 18 points thanks in large part to KiAndre Gaddy.
The freshman guard from Dallas ended up scoring 27 points and brought down 16 rebounds.
Montana Tech regained its momentum with a couple of free throws by England and a jump shot by Dylan Pannabecker.
Five Orediggers finished the game in double figures as the team snapped a three-game losing steak.
“We just kept getting stop after stop,” said England, who finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. “When our defense shows up, our offense responds. It feels great.”
The Frontier Conference does not start up again until early January, when Montana Tech travels out to Rocky Mountain College, but Hiatt knows there is still much work to improve on.
From here on out, there are no extended breaks.
“I like the breaks, because you can figure some things out, but it’s tough,” Hiatt said. “We will be a little sharper tomorrow for sure."
The Orediggers will return to Carroll College on Saturday evening to take on SAIT, a Canadian team from Calgary.