Breunig Scores 22 Points & Griz Defeat Idaho State 88-77

By DAVE GUFFEY

The University of Montana Grizzlies had five players score in double figures, led by forward Martin Breunig’s 22 points, as they defeated the visiting Idaho State Bengals 88-77 Thursday night in a Big Sky Conference game in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

The victory boosts the Grizzlies’ league record to 11-3 (15-10 overall), and UM has now won 10 of its last 12 games and four in a row.

Montana is one of three Big Sky teams to secure a postseason tournament berth in the eight-team 2015 tourney field, along with Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. ISU goes to 3-11 in the conference and 6-20 overall.

The Grizzlies took control of the game early, and took what looked like a commanding a 19-point lead at 38-19 on a lay-up by Breunig with 3:17 to go in the first half.

Montana maintained its lead in the opening half and led 44-30 at intermission, thanks to 15 points by sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller who canned 4-of-5 shots from behind the arc, and 10 points and 8 rebounds by Breunig.

Montana maintained the lead the entire game, but the pesky Bengals made things interesting miad-way through the second half, as senior forward Nnamdi Ezenwa scored on a lay-up with 10:03 left to play, and ISU cut UM’s lead to just five points at 56-51.

ISU continued to stay within striking distance for the next several minutes, but the Grizzlies took a double-digit lead (77-66) on a crucial 3-pointer by senior forward Mike Weisner, and led by 10 or more points the rest of the way.

“We lost concentration, we played soft and turned the ball over,” said Griz head coach Travis DeCuire. “We just gave them too many opportunities and didn’t defend very well. We started out probably holding them to 10 or 15 percent. The last seven minutes of the half they scored 20 points. We just didn’t defend very well.”

Also in double figures with Breunig were Gfeller (18 points), senior guard Jordan Gregory (16 points), sophomore guard Mario Dunn (11 points), and Weisner (10 points). Gfeller ended up making 5-of-9 treys and he was 3-of-3 from the line.

“It’s zone and you just can’t leave Brandon open,” DeCuire said. “He’s getting a flat-footed, wide-open jump shot that you don’t get against a man-to-man. Anytime anybody zones us he’s probably going to shoot like that. That’s zone action and we haven’t seen much zone this year. With runners and what-not and they switch guys from post-to-post – you pretty much have a duck and a seal and the over the top works.”

Breunig had all of his game-high 8 rebounds in the first half, and he was matched by UM freshman forward Fabijan Krslovic also with 8 caroms. Krslovic added 6 points and 3 steals.

Gregory now has 1,091 career points to remain 20th on UM’s all-time list. He needs just 10 points to pass forward Ed Argenbright (1,100, 1954-56) and move up to 19th.

cornholeThe Bengals were led by senior guard/forward Chris Hansen with 20 points, while freshman guard Geno Luzcando added18.

Both teams shot the ball extremely well. The Griz were 29-of-49 from the field for a season-best 59.2%; made 12-of-24 from behind the arc; and were 18-of-21 (85.7%) from the line. ISU was 24-of-48 from the floor, made 9-of-20 treys (45.0%), and were 20-of-25 (80.0%) from the line. The Griz out-rebounded the Bengals 27-19, and ISU’s 19 boards was the lowest total by a Griz opponent this season.

“It’s one game at a time,” DeCuire said. “I think we perform a lot better when we approach each game individually and not pay too much attention to the standings. We know that we have goals, but it’s more about being the best team in March. If we can position ourselves to where we’re playing at home or have a good seed, we’ll be a lot more excited about that.

“We’re excited,” DeCuire continued. “It’s a team effort. Guys are doing a good job of finding him (Gfeller). His ability to stretch the defense allows Martin and Jordan to be who they are. This is a team that has figured out over the last couple of months their roles and we all have our roles. Everybody understands that’s Brandon’s role and it’s big time.”

The Grizzlies host the defending league champion and pre-season favorite Weber State Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 21, on “Senior Night,” as UM’s recognizes its three seniors, Gregory, Chris Kemp, and Weisner prior to the game. The Wildcats defeated Montana State 74-71 Thursday in Bozeman.

ISU plays at MSU on Saturday in a game that tips off at 2:35 p.m.

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