Grizzlies Shoot Season-Low 33 Percent in Loss to San Francisco

As the buzzer sounded to end the first half of play between the University of Montana and the University of San Francisco, the ball had just left Kruize Pinkins’ hand. What happened next was unbelievable.

The desperation shot from near half-court hit the backboard hard, then ricocheted off the rim on it’s way to the ground. Why was it unbelievable? It was the only miss of the half for Pinkins, who finished the period with 12 points.

The Grizzlies (2-3) dropped the game 76-57 and still haven’t figured out how to defeat San Francisco (4-2). This was the third consecutive year the Grizzlies have fallen to USF, and they are 0-7 against the Dons all-time.

San Francisco held an 18-point lead at halftime, shooting a staggering 67 percent from the floor. When you compare that to the 23 percent mark from Montana, it’s easy to see why the Dons held such a large lead.

If you take the gap in shooting percentages and add a 23-9 rebounding lead for USF, you’re looking at a potential blowout.

But Grizzly big-man Martin Bruenig wasn’t about to let that happen. A slam-dunk just over a minute into the second half cut the lead to 17. Fabijan Krslovic and Mario Dunn each scored to continue to dig into the USF lead.

Then Breunig, who finished with a team-high 14 points, lined up his only three-point attempt of the game. The trey fell and the San Francisco lead was cut to just 11.

That 11-point gap, however, was as close as the Griz were able to get, eventually falling 76-57. Coach Travis DeCuire has seen some good stretches from his team this year, but feels his young players haven’t found out how to play a full 40 minutes yet.

“We’ve played hard in stretches but we just haven’t learned how to sustain, and that’s just maturity,” DeCuire said.

The Dons dominated the game in many categories, but perhaps the most telling was the disparity in points in the paint. The Dons were able to get to the hoop at will, finishing the game with 40 points inside the key compared to just 18 for the Griz.

DeCuire said that energy and intensity were an issue for his team, and that led to the massive production in the paint for San Francisco.

“We talk about effort, and for them to get 40 points in the paint just tells you that we were not intense defensively,” DeCuire said. “I just didn’t see a lot of energy for us out there.”

The Grizzlies were held to a season-low field goal percentage at just 33 percent. A team that lives and dies by the three-point field goal hoisted up a season-high 35 attempts from beyond the arc, but made just 28 percent of those shots.

Meanwhile, the Dons were burning holes in the nets. The hosts finished the game shooting 65 percent from the floor.

San Francisco held a significant lead in the rebounding department too, finishing with a 36-25 advantage. Matt Glover led the Dons with nine rebounds. Breunig was the best rebounder for Montana, finishing with eight.

The Grizzlies also struggled with foul trouble. Michael Weisner fouled out with 4:22 remaining. Montana had three other players finish the game with four fouls apiece. They ended up with 27 total fouls, whereas USF had just 18.

While DeCuire may have been disappointed with the loss, he knows his team can use this as an opportunity to learn and get better. He has seen improvements in his team that aren’t reflected in the win-loss column.

“The key for us is to continue to improve, and you don’t always see the improvement in your record,” he said. “Sometimes you take two steps forward, one step back and then two steps forward again.”

He knows his team has a lot of work before they take on the California Golden Bears on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

“If we’re willing to come out and work Monday and Tuesday and take two more steps forward for the California game, then we’ll be fine and we’ll be headed in the right direction,” DeCuire said.

Breunig continues to be the most important player for the Grizzlies, leading Montana in both points and rebounds with 14 and eight, respectively. He has led Montana in those two categories in every game this season except for the opener against Colorado State.

Jermaine Edmonds Jr. was the second leading scorer for Montana with 13, including three triples. Jordan Gregory finished with nine. Fabijan Krslovic recorded three points and six rebounds for the Griz.

Kruize Pinkins led the Dons with 26 points in just 24 minutes of play. He shot an impressive 82 percent from the floor and made all seven of his free-throw attempts.

The Dons also received a good performance from Tim Derksen, who had 17 points and six rebounds. Mark Tollefsen reached double-figures as well for USF, finishing with 15 points.

The Grizzlies are in for perhaps their toughest test of the season on Wednesday, as they will take on the 5-1 California Golden Bears in Berkeley. The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. MST.