Montana Grizzlies Defeat Host NC Bears 88-75

By DAVE GUFFEY, for University of Montana Sports Information

The University of Montana Grizzlies made a season-high 12 three-pointers and had four players score in double figures on their way to an 85-77 Big Sky Conference victory over the Northern Colorado Bears in NC’s Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion on Saturday).

The victory kept the defending Big Sky champion Grizzlies undefeated in league play, as they improved to 6-0, and they have now won 19 consecutive conference games.  The 85 points in Montana’s win at NC is a season-high.

Junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar led the way with a career-high 26 points, while senior point guard Will Cherry scored a season-high 21 points, senior forward Mathias Ward added 17, and sophomore forward Mike Weisner added 11.  Another key factor for the Griz in their win was that they had a 21-0 advantage in bench scoring.

It was close throughout the second half, with three ties and eight lead changes.  The final tie of the nip-and-tuck contest was 65-65 when junior forward Spencer Coleman scored on a lay-up on an assist from Cherry with 8:15 left to play.

After Coleman had knotted the game at 65-all, the red-hot Jamar nailed a three-pointer with 7:06 remaining in the game, which gave the Griz a 68-65 advantage, and Montana (10-4 overall) led the contest the rest of the way.

The Bears (1-5 in the BSC and 3-11 overall) stayed close for several minutes after Jamar’s go-ahead trey, but after Ward converted a three-point play, that gave the Grizzlies an eight-point (81-73) lead – their largest of the game, and that came with 1:03 remaining to play.

Montana started the game out slow, and when NC junior guard Tate Unruh canned a three-pointer at the 8:53 mark of the first half, the Bears took a 15-point (29-14) lead.  The Griz battled back, though, and tied the game 36-36 on a three-point play by Jamar with 1:40 left until the break.  Another conventional three-point play, this time by Cherry with a second to gon until intermission, gave UM a slim 44-41 lead at halftime.

Jamar, who played 39 minutes, had a superb all-around game, going 9-of-10 from the field, and he made 4-of-5 three-pointers and 4-of-6 shots from the line, and also had 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Coleman was solid off the bench, scoring 7 points and dishing out 4 assists.  Weisner led UM with a team and career-high tying 6 rebounds.  Cherry had 6 assists and 5 rebounds, with just 2 turnovers in 37 minutes of action.

It was the 72nd Big Sky victory for seventh-year Griz head coach Wayne Tinkle, which is the second most in school history.  He is only one league win away from the all-time record of 73, set by Mike Montgomery from 1979-86.

Junior forward Derrick Barden led NC with 21 points and was one of four Bears in double figures, and Barden had  also had a game-high 15 rebounds.  NC out-rebounded the Griz 34-29, and the Bears had 18 offensive boards.

Montana shot a season-best 55.6% from the field, making 30-of-54 shots, and was 12-of-25 (those 25 attempts tied a season high) for a solid 48.0% from three-point range, and converted 13-of-18 (72.2%) free throws.  The Griz made 7-of-12 (58.3%) three-pointers in the second half.

NC also shot the ball well from the floor, making 30-of-60 field goal tries and 8-of-16 shots from behind the arc, but they struggled from the charity stripe, going 9-of-19 (47.4%).

Montana’s next four league games will all be at home in Dahlberg Arena, beginning with Southern Utah next Thursday, Jan. 17, and the, the Griz host intrastate rival Montana State on Saturday, Jan. 19.  Tip-off for both home games next week are at 7:05 p.m.

See the UM VS NCU Boxscore.