Griz lose at Davidson 93-87 in Overtime

By DAVE GUFFEY, for University of Montana Sports Information

Two of the top-ranked Mid-Major teams in the Division I ranks squared off in a Ramada BracketBusters game today on a game televised on ESPNU, and both showed the nation that they are indeed two of the nation’s elite squads.

The 10th-ranked (’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll) and host Davidson College Wildcats defeated the 13th-ranked  (’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll)  University of Montana Grizzlies 93-87 in overtime Saturday afternoon in front of a partisan and vocal crowd of 4,897 fans in DC’s John M Belk Arena.

The Grizzlies (19-6 overall) had to overcome a six-point deficit late in the second half, but two critical free throws by junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar with 19 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 76-76 to force the overtime.

The Wildcats (21-7) overall and the first-place team in the Southern Conference (15-1), had a chance to win the game in regulation, but forward Jake Cohen’s three-pointer was off the mark, and Jamar grabbed the rebound on his miss to extend the final outcome of the game by five more minutes.

The Grizzlies, who are also the first-place team in their league, the Big Sky Conference (15-1), have won 15 of their last 17 games.

Davidson took a 75-69 lead with 1:36 to go in regulation on a dunk by forward De’Mon Brooks.  But, exactly 20 seconds (1:16) later, Griz sophomore forward Kevin Henderson nailed a clutch three-pointer to reduce DC’s lead to three points (75-72) .

The Griz cut the Wildcats’ lead to a single point, 75-74, on a steal and a lay-up by sophomore guard Jordan Gregory with 33 seconds to go.  DC pushed its lead to 76-74 when Cohen made one-of-two free throws with 24 seconds remaining, but and then Jamar made both of his two critical charity shots to knot the game at 76-all.

“It was a great effort, the second half especially,” said Griz head coach Wayne Tinkle on the post-game interview on the Grizzly Radio Network from Learfield Sports.  “We are proud of our guys for their effort here on the road under some extreme diversity.”

Cohen, a 6-10, 235-pound senior, was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor.  He was the main reason DC led 47-38 at halftime.

Jamar had a superb overall game, scoring a career-high 28 points, along with game-highs of 12 rebounds and 7 assists in 42 minutes of action.  It was his second double-double of the season and the sixth in his career.

Also in double figures for the Griz were Gregory (12 points) and senior point guard Will Cherry (11 points).  Sophomore guard Keron DeShields added 9 points, junior forward Spencer Coleman had 8, and centers Eric Hutchison and Andy Martin (a career-high for him) each scored 7.

The Griz, whose 87 points was a season-high, were playing without senior forward and leading scorer (14.8 ppg) Mathias Ward, who was injured last week at Idaho State, and sat on UM’s team bench today, but did not suit up.

Cherry left the game in the final few minutes in regulation due to an injury, and he was unable to play in the overtime. Cherry got in early foul trouble and played only six minutes in the first half.

Montana was an even 50 percent (31-of-62) from the field, made 5-of-15 (33.3%) three-pointers, and were 20-of-26 (76.9%) from the line.  The Griz out-rebounded the Wildcats 37-31, and Montana grabbed all of its 14 offensive rebounds in the game in the second half and in overtime.

Montana’s defense shut Cohen down in the second half, as he scored just three points – all of them coming from the free throw line,  as he finished with 28 points.

In the first half Davidson had a 28-14 advantage over Montana in points in the paint, but for the game the Wildcats ended up out-scoring them 46-40 in the paint.  Brooks, a 6-7 junior,  added 18 points for the Cats, and led them with 8 rebounds.

The Wildcats,  who have won 12 games in a row and lead the nation in free throw percentage, were 26-of-29 (89.7%) from the stripe.  DC made 30-of-61 (49.2%) field goal attempts and were 7-of-20 (35.0%) from behind the arc.  The 93 points by the Wildcats were the most scored on the Griz this season.

“We’ve got some concerns moving forward with both Will and Mathias’ injuries, but the rest of the guys are going to have to step up,” Tinkle said.  “The guys who didn’t play too smart (today) need to play smarter; and the guys who didn’t play too tough today need to play tougher.  If our guys can really commit to that, then we can continue to build, and finish this thing off right.”

The Grizzlies have two crucial Big Sky road games coming up – Saturday, March 2 at Montana State, and Monday, March 4, at Southern Utah.