Gregory Scores a Game-High 17 Points as the Griz Beat Vandals 70-56

By DAVE GUFFEY

The University of Montana Grizzlies had four starters score in double figures and senior guard Jordan Gregory had a game-high 17 points, as host UM defeated the visiting Idaho Vandals 70-56 in a Big Sky Conference game in Dahlberg Arena.

The victory boosted Montana’s league record to 8-3 (12-10 overall), as the Griz remain in third place in the Big Sky race.  The Grizzlies have won nine of their last 12 games.

The Grizzlies got off to a slow start, and trailed the Vandals 18-11 with 10:26 to go in the opening half, when sophomore guard Perrion Callandret nailed a jump shot.

The Griz whittled down the Vandals (4-6/9-12) lead over the next few minutes, and when sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller nailed a 3-pointer the Grizzlies took their first lead at 23-21 with 6:16 left until intermission and led the rest of the way.  UM then out-scored Idaho 9-3 in the final two minutes of the first half, and led 32-24 at the break.

Guard Jordan Gregory (Photo by Todd Goodrich UM)

Guard Jordan Gregory (Photo by Todd GoodrichUM)

“I think we were a little tight,” said head coach Travis DeCuire about the first half. “We got the shots we wanted — Martin around the basket, Jordan on a tight curl from mid-range, Brandon two open threes from the corner – they’re the typical shots we’re going to get, I just think we were a little tight.”

The Vandals never took the lead in the second half, but they reduced the Grizzlies’ advantage to four points at 55-51 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Connor Hill with 4:37 left to play.

Montana went on a 15 to 5 scoring run after Hill’s charity shots though, and took a 14-point (70-56) lead for the final points of the contest, thanks to Gregory going 4-of-4 from the line and freshman forward Fabijan Krslovic who made both of his free throws in the final minute-and-a-half, and Montana  maintained a double-digit lead.

Gregory was 4-of-8 from the floor, made 2-of-3 treys, and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the line, and he also dished out a career-high 7 assists.

Also in double figures for the Griz were starters Martin Breunig (12 points), Gfeller (11 points), and Mario Dunn (10 points).  Krslovic finished with 6 points and grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds.  The Griz had a 27-26 edge in rebounds.

Gregory now has 1,025 career points, which ties him for 26th on UM’s career list with guard Dan Balko, who scored 1,025 points from 1958-60.

Hill led Idaho with 15 points, while senior guard Mike Scott and freshman forward Arkadiy Mkrtchyan scored 11 points each.

“We weren’t necessarily looking at that as two losses (70-69 at Sacramento State and 75-69 to Eastern Washington),” DeCuire said. “Those were two big games, two good teams, top of the standings. We let one slip away and another one we probably got outplayed a little bit. It was important for us to keep our confidence and I think our guys did that.

“We’re probably going to have to be more patient and grind out possessions instead of just going to someone, unless maybe it’s Jordan,” DeCuire said. “I thought our motion was good for us tonight. It didn’t change as much for us tonight as it would in most games, but it hurt us defensively. I thought they got some interior stuff that they might not have if we had been bigger.”

UM helped its cause by shooting well in the second half, making 14-of-22 shots (63.6%) from the floor and 8-of-10 free throws.  UI was 10-of-21 (47.5%) from the floor and 11-of-17 (60.9%) from the stripe in the second stanza.   The Griz scored 14 points on 17 Vandal turnovers.

The Grizzlies begin the second half of league play on the road next week, playing at North Dakota on Thursday, Feb. 12, and at Northern Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 14.  Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. (Mtn.).  Idaho hosts Portland State and Sacramento State next week.

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