Montana Down North Dakota 74-63 (Photo Gallery)

By DAVE GUFFEY| Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

The University of Montana Grizzlies had one of their best offensive performances of the season in route to a 74-63 victory over the University of North Dakota in a Big Sky Conference game Saturday night in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

Junior forward Martin Breunig and senior guard Jordan Gregory led the way for Montana, combining for 42 points, as the Griz improved to 2-0 in league play and go to 5-7 overall.

After the second and final tie of the game at 8-8, Bruenig scored on a three-point play with 16:05 remaining in the first half, giving the Grizzlies a three-point (11-8) edge and led the rest of the way. Montana maintained the lead for almost 38 minutes of the contest.

UND’s (1-1/5-8) final lead was 6-5 and came at 16:55 mark of the first stanza on a 3-pointer by junior guard Terrel de Rouen. After that UM went ahead 8-6 on a trey by Gregory, which was followed by a pair of free throws by junior guard Estan Tyler which knotted the game up an 8-all. That was followed by Bruenig’s three-point play which gave UM the lead for good.

Martin Breunig

Martin Breunig led all scoring with 23 points. Photo by ©William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.

UND, which trailed 35-29 at halftime, stayed within striking distance throughout most of the game, but when Breunig converted another three-point play late in the contest, he gave Montana a 17-point (69-52) lead with 6:05 left to play.

The visitors cut the Grizzlies lead to eight points at 69-61 with 2:11 left to play on a jumper by sophomore guard Quinton Hooker. But, after Hooker’s bucket, Gregory and sophomore guards Mario Dunn and Brandon Gfeller made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 50 seconds and secured the win for UM.

Breunig scored a game-high 23 points and was 9-of-15 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the stripe. Gregory added 19 points and was 5-of-11 from the field, made 4-of-7 treys, and was 5-of-6 from the line.

Dunn grabbed a game-high 6 rebounds, while Gfeller and freshman forward Fabijan Krslovic each pulled down 5 boards (four of Krslovic’s rebounds were on offense). The Griz had a substantial advantage on the glass, out-rebounding UND 33-20, and UND’s 20 rebounds was the fewest by an opponent this season.

“He (Krslovic) forces a lot of turnovers, and he deflects a lot of balls he might not be able to get to,” said Griz mentor Travis DeCuire. “One thing that we talked to the team about is our commitment to our roles, to each other, to winning. I think Fab’s a great example of that. He’s started some games and he hasn’t started some games. It hasn’t changed his minutes, but it has when he is on and off the court, but it hasn’t affected him mentally at all.”

UM senior center Chris Kemp chipped in 9 points, while Dunn and Krslovic added 7 points apiece. Gfeller and sophomore forward Jack Lopez added 4 points each, and sophomore guard Riley Bradshaw also scored.

Montana shot 55.3% (26-of-47) for the game, and made 6-of-14 (42.9%) shots from behind the arc, and were 16-of-22 (72.7%) from the line.

BBQ“We definitely feel like that’s an advantage for us with Martin down there and Chris’ girth and Fab coming around right now,” said DeCuire. “A guy like Jordan Gregory is going to score a lot for us and Gfeller’s a good shooter, but if we go inside-out we get good shots and I think that’s why we shot 55 percent from the floor.

“What happens is they start to double down on the post,” DeCuire said. “Typically teams double down because your guy is a threat and they can’t guard him one-on-one, or he’s not a good passer. When we have both it allows us to spin that ball around to the second side and get good shots, is what we got tonight.

“We like where we’re at,” DeCuire said. “Hopefully there’s just one or two teams that are undefeated, so we’re sitting where we want to be in the standings. We want to hold down home court. The team has a lot of confidence regardless of our record from earlier. Right now we just have to continue to grind this thing out.”

UND made 20-of-43 (46.5%) of its field goal tries, converted 6-of-19 (31.6%) treys, and made 17-of-24 (70.8%) free throws. De Rouen led UND with 17 points, while Hooker added 13.

The Grizzlies are on the road next week for a pair Big Sky games, playing pre-season favorite Weber State on Thursday, Jan. 8, and Idaho State on Saturday, Jan. 10. Both games tip off at 7:05 p.m.

UND hosts Sacramento State and Portland State in league contests next week.

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