Photo Gallery: Montana Defeats Sac State 63-52 To Remain in First Place

By DAVE GUFFEY, for GoGriz.com

Photos by MIKE HUBERMAN

Sophomore guard Jordan Gregory scored a career-high 21 points to lead The University of Montana Grizzlies to a hard-earned 63-52 victory over an intense Sacramento State Hornet squad for a crucial Big Sky Conference victory Thursday night (March 7).

The win improved the Grizzlies’ league record to 18-1, as they remained first in the Big Sky and maintained a one-game lead over Weber State (17-2).    Montana’s win tonight clinched at least a tie for the league’s regular-season championship.  The Wildcats dominated visiting Portland State, 80-52, today, improving to 23-5 overall.

A Grizzly win this Saturday, March 9, against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on “Senior Night,” in UM’s Dahlberg Arena would give Montana the Big Sky regular-season title, and a host role in the conference’s eight-team, post-season tournament (March 14-15-16) for the second year in a row.

Montana (22-6 overall), has now won 25 straight Big Sky regular-season games, and has also won 18 of its past 20 games.

The Hornets (14-14/8-11), who were fighting for their post-season tournament lives, never led in the contest, but they stayed close most of the way.

Just as in the first half, the teams went back and forth in the second stanza, and when senior forward John Dickson scored on two straight back-to-back driving lay-ups, be brought the Hornets were within three points twice in the late going.  His first bucket made the score 45-42 with 4:55 to go, while his next, which came with 4:12 remaining, cut UM’s lead to 47-44.

Sophomore Guard Jordan Gregory.scored a career-high 21 points to lead UM to the win over Sac State March 7, in Dahlberg Arena. Photo by Mike Huberman.

But after Dickson’s second lay-up in a row, the Griz went on much-needed run, out-scoring the Hornets 10-2, and took a 57-46 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Mike Weisner.

The Griz started their late comeback on a lay-up by Gregory, giving UM a 49-44 lead.  After Gregory basket,  the Griz missed a shot on their next possession, but it was rebounded by junior forward Spencer Coleman, who passed the ball outside to sophomore forward Kevin Henderson who nailed a key 3-pointer to give UM a 52-44 lead with 2:38 left to play.Montana tacked on five more points on a steal and lay-up by junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar, and then Weisner made his trey (his only one of the game), which gave the Griz that 11-point (57-46) lead, which matched their biggest of the game

Montana also had an 11-point (22-11) lead with 5:51 left until halftime thanks to a pair of free throws by Coleman.  The Griz would eventually take a 29-22 lead at intermission.Montana was once again playing without its two starting seniors, point guard Will Cherry and forward Mathias Ward.  Cherry was injured at Davidson on Feb. 23 and has now missed the last three games.  Ward, who was hurt at Idaho State on Feb. 16, recently underwent season-ending surgery.

Gregory, whose previous career-high was 17 against Eastern Washington at home earlier this season, was 5-of-11 from the floor, made 3-of-7 treys, and converted all eight of his free throw attempts.  Jamar was UM’s only other double-figure scorer with 12 points.  Coleman added 7 points he had a career and game-high 9 rebounds.  Freshman center Andy Martin had 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 4 points.

Jamar now has 1,052 career points, which moves him up to 21st all-time, as he passed Brian Qvale (1,046 points, 2008-11) and Mike Warhank (1,046 points, 1997-2000), and Roger Fasting (1,047 points, 1988-92).

The Griz were 20-of-43 (46.5%) from the floor, made 7-of-17 (41.2%) 3-pointers, and converted a solid 16-of-17 charity shots for a season-high 94.1%.  Montana out-rebounded Sac State 35-27.

The Hornets made 19-of-53 (35.8%) shots, 3-of-17 (17.6%) treys, and 11-of-16 (68.8%) free throws.  Dickson led the Hornets with 15 points.

The Montana-NAU game tips off at 7:05 p.m. this Saturday, March 9.  The Lumberjacks (11-19/8-11), who are also fighting for their post-season tournament lives, lost 83-79 in overtime at Montana State this evening.

(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE AND USE ARROWS TO SCROLL THROUGH IMAGES)

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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th
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Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 7th.
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