Will the Skyhawks soar or will the Grizzlies roar?

Fort Lewis men’s basketball begins defense of RMAC Shootout title with Adams State

Matt Morris and Fort Lewis will look to defend last year’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout title, beginning tonight against Adams State in Alamosa. The Grizzlies won both meetings this year. Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo

Matt Morris and Fort Lewis will look to defend last year’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout title, beginning tonight against Adams State in Alamosa. The Grizzlies won both meetings this year.

The Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team has been oh-so-close to beating Adams State this year.

Seven more points, and FLC could be talking about a regular-season sweep over its Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rivals, rather than the other way around.

But that’s not the case. And at this time of year, it doesn’t matter much anyway.

The Skyhawks, who lost twice to the Grizzlies by a combined six points, are out to repeat as RMAC Shootout champions, and the No. 6 seed will begin that trek tonight in Alamosa against the third-seeded Grizzlies.

Adams State is coming off a stretch of three losses in its last five games, but FLC head coach Bob Hofman expects the Grizzlies to be at peak performance at Plachy Hall.

“(It’ll) be like a hornet’s nest because they’re a very physical team and play great defense,” Hofman said.

The Grizzlies love to bang away in the post with 6-10 Jack Osborn and 6-8 Kaimynn Pruitt leading the way. While this typically isn’t a problem for a physical FLC side, injuries have given the Skyhawks reason for concern. Leading scorer and rebounder Matt Morris has played the last three games with a stress fracture in his right foot, and center Torrey Udall is a game-time decision after dislocating his kneecap Saturday against Colorado Mesa.

“We have to play great defense. ... There’s really nothing we can do about (injuries),” Hofman said.

Even with everybody healthy, defending Adams State is a daunting task. The Grizzlies lead the RMAC in scoring at 88.1 points per game. They also share the ball better than anyone in the league, averaging 14.7 assists per contest.

FLC will rely on the services of RMAC Offensive Player of the Week Matt Billups to help pick up the slack on both ends. Billups averaged 21.5 points per game last weekend, and FLC got strong performances from Mike Matthews and Josh Cassaday as well.

Unlike last year, the Skyhawks know they’ll have to win the Shootout in order to make the NCAA Tournament. After this latest run, the Grizzlies likely need to win at least tonight’s game to avoid falling out of the top eight in the Central Region, which should make for fireworks in Alamosa.

“For us, it’s one-and-out. We’re playing every game like the seventh game of a playoff series,” Hofman said.

rowens@durangoherald.com