By ERIC TABER
Though Montana led the game from whistle to whistle, and at one point by as many as 14, it took a Michael Oguine three-pointer from the corner in the final minutes of play to ward off a late UNC rally, as the Grizzlies left Greeley with a 73-66 win over Northern Colorado in Big Sky play.
With the win, the Griz extend a six-game win streak, move to 10-6 on the season, and remain undefeated in conference play at 5-0. The UNC Bears fall to 4-12 on the season (1-4 BSC).
Four players scored in double figures for the Griz, but as a team, Montana shot only 4-21 from behind the arc in the coldest three-ball performance since UM went 1-16 from downtown at Pepperdine in late November.
In a game littered with 54 fouls between the two teams, the Grizzlies had to find other ways to get it done.
Senior forward Martin Breunig again showed why he received preseason conference honors, putting in 22 points and eight rebounds to lead all scorers. Walter Wright kept his sharp touch going with 13 points and eight rebounds; while freshman Michael Oguine hit double figures on the late three-pointer that iced the game for UM, and put him on 11 points for the night.
“The way it came is how I would have described how I want our threes,” said Montana coach Travis DeCuire of Oguine’s clutch triple. “We get a post touch, turn it all the way around against the double, and who ever is open, just have your feet ready to knock it down.”
Also putting up double figures in the score column was true freshman Bobby Moorehead, who netted a career-high 12 points and added six rebounds, one of which was an offensive board late in the game that provided a key second-possession for the Griz.
“He doesn’t make very many mistakes on the defensive end, on breakdowns, those types of things, so he doesn’t hurt you,” said Coach DeCuire about Moorehead. “When he’s making shots, he’s a big factor.”
Despite four players in double figures, and a 73-point outing, once again it was the Montana defense that paid dividends, holding UNC to 66 points, and outrebounding the Bears 43-34.
“The biggest thing is that we held them under thirty points in the first half, which gave us a chance. So we did a good job on the glass, and that’s always going to keep you in the game,” added DeCuire.
Four Grizzlies: Breunig, Gfeller, Wright and Oguine, are now averaging double figures on the season thus far, led by Breunig’s 17.6 per game.
Montana massaged a fluctuating lead to open the game, but blew the doors off halfway through the period when UM went on a 18-7 run to distance themselves with the Bears, and the Grizzlies wouldn’t look back.
UM went into the locker rooms with a 37-26 lead, seemingly having answers for everything UNC was throwing their way.
Montana came out in the second half though, and couldn’t find much in the way of production, scoring only four points in the first six minutes of the period, wile the Bears knocked down 11 points to close the gap.
Coach DeCuire’s subs became important, as the Grizzlies got contributions from eight players in scoring, and finished with 20 points off the bench as the fouls started to pile up.
UM did enough throughout the second half though to keep the Bears at arms length, but UNC chipped away at the Grizzlies’ lead, and closed the gap to it’s closest margin of the second half with 1:29 to play.
The Griz were hanging on to a 65-61 lead, when Brandon Gfeller found Oguine in the corner, set to pop the three. The shot found the bottom of the net, and gave UM enough breathing room to finish with the 73-66 win.
Montana now boards a plane for Grand Forks, North Dakota, as the Griz get set to take on the Fighting Hawks on Saturday. UND is coming off an 85-68 win over Montana State, where they shot 58 percent from the floor to move to 8-8 on the season.
Tipoff from Grand Forks is set for 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time.