By ERIC TABER | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ
Montana Grizzly fans may have been celebrating after the Brawl of the Wild victory for the football team Saturday afternoon, but in Dahlberg Arena the men’s basketball team had to take on another Montana school, this one from the state capitol.
The Grizzlies jumped out to a quick lead and never gave it up, holding off a tough Carroll College team on Saturday night. Montana never trailed in the game, which finished with a 70-61 Grizzly victory.
The Grizzlies, who have been plagued with some slow starts this season, came out of the gates quick with a three from Brandon Gfeller on the first possession. After that, true freshman Michael Oguine scored five straight to extend the Montana lead to 8-0.
Perhaps feeding off the energy created from the football team’s big win against Montana State just hours before tip-off, Montana continued to push the lead up to 17-8 before they started to cool off.
Carroll would go on a 7-0 run of their own, with Oliver Carr providing five points, to cut the lead back down to 17-15. The two point deficit would be the closest the teams were all night, as the Grizzlies finished the half strong and entered the break with a 40-26 lead.
The Saints hung around, starting the second half off quick and getting right back into the game. But every time Carroll went on a run, Montana found a big play to end it. A 10-4 Saint run to start the second half was finished by a big-time three from Brandon Gfeller.
Once again, Carroll fell behind before charging right back, showing no fear in front of the 3,000 plus crowd in Dahlberg Arena. They were able to cut the lead down to three points with eight and a half minutes left before Martin Breunig rose up for a monstrous slam-dunk, stopping any of the Saints momentum.
After dropping the last game to San Jose State and struggling in the early going on the road, it was important for Montana to come out with the foot on the gas pedal.
“After that last loss, we wanted to come out and make sure we sent a message and played hard and executed,” Gfeller said. “I feel like we did that for the first couple minutes, but we didn’t hold that for the entire game.”
Gfeller would go on to hit two threes, extending the run to 8-0 and giving the Griz a comfortable advantage with just under six minutes to play. Montana held on for the 70-61 victory, and improved to 2-1 on the season.
UP NEXT: The Griz hit the road to Fargo, N.D. for a midweek tussle against last year’s Summit League champions, the NDSU Bison on Nov. 25 in a 6 p.m. MT tip off.