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The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team is ranked No. 18 in the latest NAIA basketball poll.

JakeUMW's Jake Owsley - photo courtesy of Kari StetsonMontana Western played a tough non-conference schedule that included seven NCAA Division II teams. Playing teams of that caliber helped prepare the Bulldogs for a tough Frontier Conference schedule. After completing their non-conference schedule the UMW men had a record of 7-5. Since the start of conference play the Montana Western men are 4-1. The one conference loss was on the road versus a tough Montana-State Northern team that has proven tough to beat at home with a 9-1 record in Havre.

The UMW team seems to have caught their stride as they have tightened their defense in conference play by allowing five fewer points than they were giving up during the non-conference portion of their schedule. The Bulldogs are holding their opponents to 41.1 percent shooting from the field. One big statistic is that the Bulldogs are averaging over 28 defensive rebounds a game, holding their opponents to one shot a possession.

Key contributors to UMW’s success has been seniors Maazin Butler and Jake Owsley. Butler is averagingMaaz-Web-ReleaseUMW's Maazin Butler over 14 points a contest while dishing out over three assists a game. Owsley leads the team in double-doubles with five and is averaging over 14 points and seven rebounds an outing. Jordan Overstreet is averaging 12 points a game and Kris Castro is averaging better than five rebounds.

Key contributions from the bench have helped propel the Bulldogs up the polls as well. Kurtis Parsons has seemingly found his shooting stroke. Parsons has scored 14 and 16 points the last two games. In those games he has shot 65 percent from the field (11/17 FGs) and is making 73 percent (8/11) from behind the arc. Shyke Smalls has made his presence felt since the start of conference play as well. He is shooting 73 percent (16/22) from the field in the five conference games and has had five assists in each of the last two games. Another Bulldog shooting well is Connor Woodill who is making 70 percent of his field goal attempts versus conference opponents.

CastroUMW's Kris Castro - photo courtesy Jim Woodill photographySteady performances by Kris Castro, who is averaging better than six points a game and over five rebounds a contest, have given the Bulldogs a lift as well. The return of Vince Turk has given Coach Keller another 6’ 8” option in the middle.

UMW hits the road again this weekend for their second of three straight weekends playing away from Straugh Gymnasium. The Bulldogs travel to Helena to take on Carroll College on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday they tip off in Great Falls at 7:30 p.m.