Wildcats Defeat Grizzlies 68-60, as Montana Suffers First League Loss

By DAVE GUFFEY for GoGriz.com

University of Montana junior forward Martin Breunig scored a career-high 31 points and the Grizzlies made a valiant second-half comeback bid, but neither of those effort proved to be enough, as the host Weber State Wildcats defeated UM 68-60 Thursday evening in a Big Sky Conference contest in front of 6,508 fans in WSU’s Dee Events Center.

Montana is now 2-1 (5-8 overall) in the Big Sky and suffered its first league loss of the young league season. The Wildcats, the preseason favorite in the conference, pick up their first conference win to go to 1-2 in the BSC and 6-8 overall.

It was the Grizzlies’ 11th regular-season loss in a row to the Wildcats. WSU’s is now 44-15 all-time against Montana in games played in Ogden.

When Wildcat sophomore forward Kyndahl Hill scored on a 3-pointer with 9:29 left in the game he gave WSU what looked like a commanding 19-point lead at 51-32. However, after Hill’s trey, the Griz battled back, and UM senior guard Jordan Gregory’s two free throws cut the Wildcats lead to eight points (58-50) with 4:16 remaining to play. WSU maintained a respectable lead the rest of the way, although Montana did reduce its lead to 67-60, but that margin of seven-points came with just 36 seconds to go.

“We had a hard time getting shots off in the first half and it was an uphill battle after that,” said Griz head coach Travis DeCuire in his postgame interview on KGVO-AM/101-FM radio. “Our execution was not very good. We weren’t very patient on offense, and I thought we fired up some questionable shots.”

The game was tied just once and that 2-2 deadlock was very early thanks to a jumper by Breunig just three minutes in. WSU regained the lead at 4-2 on a jumper by junior forward Joel Bolomboy, and the Wildcats never relinquished their advantage. WSU led 30-23 at halftime.

Breunig, who entered the game ranked ninth in the country in field goal percentage (62.5), was a red-hot 14-of-18 (both career-highs) from the field (78%) and 3-of-5 from the line. Bruenig, who is now shooting 64.5% from the floor, had a previous career-high of 30 points against Davidson on Dec. 12.

Gregory scored just 3 points in the opening half, and although he ended up with 13 points, he made just 4-of-18 shots from the field, and he was UM’s only other double-figure scorer. The Grizzlies’ third leading scorer was sophomore guard Mario Dunn with 5 points.

Breunig and sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller led the Griz with 7 rebounds apiece, while Gregory added 6 boards and dished out a game-high 6 assists, which ties his career-high.

The Wildcats were led by Bolomboy and sophomore guard Jeremy Senglin with 16 points each, and Bolomboy, the league’s top rebounder, pulled down a game-high 9 rebounds and Hill added 8. The Griz defense held Bolomboy to just 2 points and 2 rebounds in the second half.

WSU freshman guard Ryan Richardson added 10 points off the bench for WSU, and was a big reason the Wildcats’ bench out-scored the Grizzlies 21-5.

“I thought that we were very passive early,” DeCuire said. “We couldn’t get any jump shots to fall. When we cut it (WSU’s lead) to eight points a couple of times we had a few good looks, but we just couldn’t make shots when we needed to. We’ll be okay. I think we are getting better as a team.”

The Griz conclude their two-game league road trip Saturday, Jan. 10, playing the Idaho State Bengals (4-11/1-2) in Holt Arena, with tip-off at 7:05 p.m. The Bengals defeated visiting Montana State 70-61 Thursday evening, as were led senior guard/forward Chris Hansen’s 26 points.

The Wildcats host MSU (3-12/0-3) this Saturday in a 7:05 p.m. contest.