Grizzly Men’s Basketball Wins Over Southern Utah 73-67

By DAVE GUFFEY, for University of Montana Sports Information

It wasn’t pretty, but The University of Montana Grizzlies remained undefeated in Big Sky Conference play with a 73-67 win in a slugfest with the visiting Southern Utah Thunderbirds Thursday evening in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

The Grizzlies are now 7-0 in league play and improved to 11-4 overall, and they have now 18 straight Big Sky games.  The Thunderbirds are now 3-4/5-11.

There were 46 total fouls called in the contest and 52 free throw attempts.  SUU was whistled for 33 fouls and had three players foul out, while UM was called for 13 personals.

The Grizzlies, who entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in free throw percentage, struggled from the line, but got there 47 times and converted 31 of them to shoot 66.0% from there.  The Thunderbirds did not miss any of their five charity shots.

Late in the game it looked like the Grizzlies had the game under control, when with 4:46 left to play senior forward Mathias Ward scored on a lay-up on a nice feed from sophomore guard Keron DeShields, giving Montana a 58-41 lead.

SUU hung in there after Ward had given the Griz that 17-point lead, although Montana did maintain a double-digit lead until about a minute-and-a-half left to play.  In the closing 90 seconds, Thunderbird guard Damon Heuir single-handedly kept his team within striking range, as the senior made three straight 3-pointers.  Heuir’s third trey cut the Griz lead to five points (65-60) with 1:10 remaining.

After that point the game became a free shooting throw contest for UM, and five different Grizzly players went to the line a total of 12 times and made eight of them in the final 1:04 of the game, thwarting the Thunderbirds’ upset bid.

It was close throughout the first half with a couple of ties and an early (12-6) lead by SUU, but eventually Montana went on a mini scoring run and took a 31-23 halftime lead after Ward made 2-of-2 free throws with 35 seconds remaining until intermission.

The Grizzlies were 20-of-43 (46.5%) from the floor, made 2-of-7 (28.6%) 3-pointers, and the 31 free throws.  The T-Birds made 26-of-53 (49.1%) field goal attempts, 10-of-19 (52.6%) treys, and the 5 charity shots.

SUU had a 30-28 edge on the boards, but the T-Birds had 21 turnovers (UM had 11).

Ward led the Griz with a game-high 20 points, while junior G-F Kareem Jamar and junior forward Spencer Coleman had 12 points each, and senior guard Will Cherry added 10 points.  Jamar grabbed a game-high 7 rebounds, while Coleman had 5.

Heuir led the Thunderbirds with 19 points, 16 of those coming in the second half, while senior forward Jackson Stevenett added 16 points.

The victory improves seventh-year Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle’s Big Sky record to 73-30, and his those 73 league wins ties him with all-time leader Mike Montgomery, who went 73-39 from 1979-86, for the most in school history.

The Griz are back in action this Saturday on “Retro Night,” when they host the intrastate rival Montana State Bobcats in a 7:05 p.m. game.  Griz players will be wearing copper, silver, and gold colored uniforms in that contest – which will be the 286th meeting on the hardwood between the two schools.

See the UM VS SUU Box Score.