At NAU 67, Montana 47


The University of Montana Grizzlies struggled on both ends of the floor Saturday afternoon, losing 67-47 to the host Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in the final regular-season Big Sky Conference game for the teams.

The Grizzlies finished league play with a 12-8 record and in a three-way tie for second place, and will be the fourth seed in next week’s league tournament.  Montana tied with NAU (12-8), which will be a third-seed, and North Dakota (12-8), which earned the second seed.

Weber State (14-6), which won 82-78 at Eastern Washington this afternoon, is the Big Sky’s regular-season champion.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak by the Grizzlies, while NAU won its fourth game in a row.

The Griz, who trailed 26-21 at intermission, kept the game close in the first five minutes of the second half, tying the contest at 30-30 on a lay-up by junior guard Keron DeShields with 15:50 remaining to play.  That was the fifth tie of the contest.  Montana never led in the game.

After DeShield’s had knotted the game at 30-all, the Lumberjacks out-scored the Grizzlies 14-3, and when senior forward Max Jacobsen made a lay-up, NAU took a 44-43 lead with 10:31 left to play, and the Jacks maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.

“When we started the game we just did not play with a lot of toughness,” said Wayne Tinkle on the post-game radio show on KGVO Radio.  “We could not throw it in the ocean in the first half.  We did a better job in the second half, especially on defense, but they got offensive rebound after offensive rebound, and we panicked a little.  We just had a lack of mental focus and physical toughness.  NAU was focused and just took it to us.  It’s a very disappointing way to finish the regular season.”

Senior guard/forward Kareem Jamar was UM’s only player in double figures with 15 points, and he continues to move up on the Big Sky’s all-time scoring list.  Jamar now has 1,653 career points, which moves him up to 14th in league history, as he passes NAU’s Cameron Jones (now 15th with 1,646 points, 2007-11) and Brian Heinle of Cal Northridge (now 16th with 1,641 points). .

NAU was led junior guard Quinton Upshur with 14 points, while freshman forward/center Ako Kaluna added 12, and junior guard Aaseem Dixon scored 11.

The Lumberjacks dominated the scoring inside, tallying 34 points in the paint, compared to the Grizzlies’ 14.  NAU also had a commanding 40-21 bulge on the boards, and the Jacks’ bench out-scored UM’s 32-9.

Montana had season lows of 47 points and 28.9% (11-of-38) shooting from the floor, and the Griz made just 4-of-17 (23.5%) 3-pointers.  NAU was 27-of-54 (50%) from the field.

The Grizzlies (17-12 overall) will be play the No. 5 seed, a team that will be determined by conference games played later this evening.  Montana’s first-round tourney game will be at 7:00 p.m. next Thursday, March 13 in WSU’s Dee Events Center.  The Big Sky’s seven-team, three-day tourney will be hosted by the Wildcats, who received a first-round bye in lieu of their winning the league’s regular-season title.