Griz Lose 70-63 in First Round to PSU (Photo Gallery)

By DAVE GUFFEY | Photos by AUSTIN SMITH

The University of Montana Grizzlies’ amazing streak of Big Sky Conference championships ended today, as the Portland State Vikings defeated them 70-63 Thursday evening in a first-round game in the league’s 39th post-season tournament in Weber State’s Dee Events Center.

The Grizzlies had won Big Sky tournament titles three of the last four years, and with the loss tonight failed to advance to the tourney’s championship game for the first time in the past five seasons.

The setback also possibly ended the storied career of senior guard/forward Kareem Jamar, who is currently ranked among the top scorers in school and league history. (There is an outside chance that Montana will get invited to a post-season tournament).

Just like the teams’ two regular-season Big Sky games earlier this year which both ended with overtime wins by the home team, this contest was a close most of the way.

Coach Wayne Tinkle

University of Montana Head Basketball Coach, Wayne Tinkle. Photo by Austin Smith.

The game was tied up seven times and there were eight lead changes. The last time the Griz led was at 44-43 with 7:46 left to play, when sophomore center Andy Martin made pair of free throws.

The Vikings re-gained the lead at 45-44 just six seconds later on a lay-up by junior guard Gary Winston with 7:40 remaining, and they led the rest of the way.

Montana cut the PSU lead to 52-49 on a free throw by Jamar with 4:03 to go, but could get no closer than that. The Vikings jumped to a 9-point (66-57) with 46 seconds to go on a three-point play by junior guard DaShawn Wiggins to put the game out of reach.

Jamar, who scored a game-high 20 points, now has 1,673 career points, which moves him up to fourth in school history and that’s the 13th ever scored in the 50-year-old history of the conference. He passed former UM guard Kevin Criswell, scored 1,663 points from 2003-06, to move up on both career lists.

Kareem Jamar phto by Austin Smith

Senior, Kareem Jamar, is currently ranked among the top scorers in school and league history. Photo by Austin Smith.

Also in double figures for the Griz were junior guard Jordan Gregory with 18, while junior forward Mike Weisner added 10.

PSU was led by senior forward Kyle Richardson with 19 points, while Wiggins had 18, and Winston added 11.

The Griz played solid first-half defense and offense, which led to a 28-26 lead at intermission. Montana was 13-of-28 (46.4%) from the floor and 2-of-2 free throws, but missed all four of its 3-point shots. PSU was 8-of-25 (32.0%) from the floor, 2-of-6 on treys, and was 8-of-9 from the line.

The Griz had four starters called for two fouls each in the opening half, while PSU had none, hence the disparity in free throw attempts. Weisner led the Griz with 8 first-half points.

Northern Colorado (18-12) survived a tremendous comeback effort by Northern Arizona (15-17), and held on for a 62-60 victory. UNC had a 20-point lead (56-36) with 9:15 left in the game. UNC will now face tourney the host Wildcats in the late semifinal game at 7:00 p.m.

In the opening quarterfinal game #2-seed North Dakota (16-15) nipped sixth-seed Sacramento State (14-16) 79-76. UND will play the Vikings in the first semifinal game at 4:30 p.m.

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