By ERIC TABER
Heading into his team’s game against Washington, Montana head coach Travis DeCuire knew the style of play they would face was going to be polar opposite of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who UM took to the wire earlier this week.
What he and the Grizzlies experienced on Saturday was just that: an athletic, fast, above the rim UW team that punished UM for every mistake, leading to a 92-62 win over Montana.
A fast start by the Huskies, cold shooting from the Griz and a slew of unforced errors spelled disaster for the Montana, who remains winless on the road this season at 3-5, while a young but talented Washington team continues to turn heads around the Pac-12 at 7-2.
The Grizzlies gave up 22 turnovers in the game, and the highflying Huskies were lethal in transition, making the Griz pay with 29 points off those 22 turnovers. Just 11 of UM’s turnovers were steals, indicating a tough night full of unforced errors for Montana.
“Speed kills, and if you want to play in March, you’re going to have a little bit of that,” said Coach DeCuire after the game.
“They finish well, and fast. They get the ball up the floor. They’re a good team, and they’re young. I think a lot of people didn’t think they were going to be very good because they’re so young, and they struggled a little bit in that tournament. But that’s a high level of play with eight freshmen on the floor, and I think their experience is starting to play pretty confident. I think that team’s going to win a lot of games.”
Montana’s leading scorer, Washington transfer Martin Breunig, was held to just 15 minutes of action due to foul trouble. Coming into the UW game, Breunig was averaging nearly a double-double per night, with just over 20 points per game, but suffered a career low three points against the Huskies.
A pair of true freshmen, Michael Oguine and Bobby Moorehead, both had career-high nights for the Griz in Breunig’s absence. Oguine tied for most points of any player in the game with 22, collected nine rebounds and five assists, a career mark in all three categories. Moorehead had 10 points and four rebounds to set a pair of career marks as well.
Rebounding was a bright spot for the Griz on an otherwise dark night, keeping right with the Huskies 40-43 in total boards, and beating UW on offensive boards 17-13. But once again Washington took advantage of opportunities, outscoring Montana 19-12 on second chance points.
The Griz suffered a nightmare start to the game, with a pair of turnovers to start, and three quick fouls in the first minute, resulting in the Huskies running out to a 13-0 lead.
Oguine then sparked the Griz into an 8-0 run of its own, connecting on a deep three, adding an assist to Bobby Moorehead for a three and putting down a 12-foot jumper to get the Griz right back in the game.
Oguine continued to lead by example offensively for the Griz in the first half, effectively driving the lane and setting up a three for Brandon Gfeller to keep the Griz in striking distance at 14-19.
UM shot 80% from three point land in the first 10 minutes on 4-5, but the Huskies were able to keep pace on the threes, nailing deep balls from Donaven Dorsey and Marquese Chriss to extend a 29-16 lead.
Breunig scored his only three points of the evening with 7:50 to play in the first half, snapping a 0-6 Griz scoring drought, and picking up the hoop and the harm with a pump move in the paint.
At the same time though, the Huskies were five of the last six from the field, were 6-13 from the field, and were steadily pulling away from the Griz, leading 31-18.
Entering the break, the Huskies had built a 52-30 lead, and it was as close as Montana would get. Montana was shooting just 28 percent at half; compared to UW’s 48 percent, and the damage had been done.
Washington extended its lead to as many as 42 in the second half with 10:48 to play, before both teams rolled in the subs.
After a tough two-game road swing against Gonzaga and Washington in the middle of an even tougher nonconference schedule, the Griz happily return home on Tuesday to host the University of Great Falls before returning to the road to face perhaps the best team in the nation right now the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks.
Tipoff against the 5-3 Great Falls Argos is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 15.