Gregory’s Career-High 36 Points Not Enough as Griz Lose to Idaho in 2 OT

By JACKSON WAGNER

The Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball team dropped a heart breaker Thursday night in Moscow, Idaho, falling 92-87 in double overtime to the host Vandals.

A heroic performance from Jordan Gregory was not enough for the Griz, who let a late lead in regulation slip before losing in the second extra frame.

Montana started off slow, but quickly got things going in their direction. They took their first lead of the game at 7-5 with 16:52 left on a Brandon Gfeller three, and played well with the lead.

It wasn’t until Sekou Wiggs made a lay-up with 7:13 left that the Grizzlies would fall behind. Wiggs quickly followed his bucket up with an emphatic slam-dunk to give the hosts an 18-16 lead and, seemingly, all the momentum.

But the Grizzlies handled the blow and finished the half on a 17-6 run to take a 33-24 lead into the locker room with them at half time. The Grizzlies shot well in the first half, finishing 50 percent compared to a 33 percent clip from the Vandals.

The second half was more of the same early, as Montana took the largest lead of the game for either side after another Gfeller three gave them the 36-26 lead. They maintained at least a five-point lead for much of the rest of the second half, and appeared to have the game in the bag after a dunk from Fabijan Krslovic gave them a 57-48 lead with just 3:24 remaining.

The Vandals had other plans, however, and proceeded to go on an 8-0 run, capped off by a pair of free throws from Arkadiy Mkrtchyan that made it 57-56 with six seconds left on the clock.

Idaho then fouled before Montana could inbound the ball, sending Gfeller to the line for a pair of free throws. He missed the first and made the second, which gave Idaho the ball down two.

Mike Scott caught the inbound pass and drove the length of the floor before being fouled on a lay-up attempt with two seconds left. He made both shots from the charity stripe and forced overtime.

The teams traded baskets in the first overtime, and the first major event of the extra period was when Grizzly forward Martin Breunig fouled out of the game with 2:09 remaining. Breunig, who averages 16.9 ppg this season, finsihed with just nine points.

The Vandals had a chance to win it at the free throw line, up two with a pair of Scott free throws coming. But Scott was only able to hit one-of-two, which gave Montana a chance to force another overtime.

Cue Jordan Gregory.

The senior proved once again that he has ice in his veins as he buried a contested three-pointer with just nine seconds left to tie the game back up at 70-all. A miss by Scott at the buzzer sent the two teams to a second overtime.

But the second overtime was all Idaho, as the hosts torched the net en route to scoring 22 points in the five-minute period to finish off the pesky Grizzlies 92-87.

Montana had chances at the end of regulation to seal the game from the free throw line, but weren’t able to capitalize, which coach Travis DeCuire said was a key to the game.

“There were some free throws to be had,” he said, “and there were some rebounds to be had.”

After holding Idaho, the Big Sky’s second best offense at 76.7 ppg, to just 24 first half points, the Montana defense couldn’t get stops when they needed them in the second half.

“We talked about this at half time, we’re kind of a tale of two halves,” DeCuire said. “The defense was really good in the first half in front of our bench because we’re talking them through it, and the offense struggled. Then we switch halves and the offense gets better and the defense struggles, and we just couldn’t get stops when we needed them.”

The loss will be particularly tough for Gregory, who did everything in his power to will the Grizzlies to the victory. His career-high 36 points were impressive, but DeCuire said they wouldn’t have needed his big shots in overtime if they had made their free throws down the stretch.

“He made some tough shots that allowed us to have at it in a couple of overtimes, but it shouldn’t have come to that if we just make free throws,” DeCuire said.

The loss drops the Grizzlies to third-place in the Big Sky, and makes it very unlikely that they will host the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The win was key for Idaho, who are battling to make the tournament and a much better team than their win-loss column indicates.

BBQ“I knew this team was good,” DeCuire said. “I told everybody that. This is a team that, you can’t look at their record, they’re better than their record. Mike Scott is the best point guard in the league, and if we don’t contain him we’re going to struggle, and he had his way with ustonight.”

Gregory moved into 16th on Montana’s all-time scoring charts with 1,142 career points. He passed three players on the night, including Anthony Johnson, who played for the Griz in 2009-10. He trails Charles Davis by 72 points for 15th.

In addition to the career-high scoring output, Gregory also recorded a game-high five assists.

Mario Dunn was the only other Grizzly to reach double figures, scoring 11 and adding two assists and four rebounds. Fabijan Krslovic played well before fouling out in the second overtime, recording nine points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Idaho had five players reach double figures, led by Connor Hill’s 23. Mike Scott, who averages 14.3 ppg, finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Arkadiy Mkrtchyan finished with 15 points, nine of which came from the free throw line.

Sekou Wiggs and Perrion Callandret also eclipsed the 10-point mark with 12 and 11, respectively.

It was the fourth overtime game of the season for Montana, and dropped the Grizzlies to 1-3 in such games. The Griz are now 0-3 in double overtime games this season.

Montana has Friday off before taking on Big Sky co-leader’s Eastern Washington (21-7/12-3 BSC) in Cheney at 3 p.m. MST on Saturday. The Eagles defeated the Grizzlies 75-69 in Missoula earlier this season.

The Griz close their season out March 7 in Bozeman against rival Montana State. The Grizzlies handled Montana State 63-48 in Missoula on Jan. 17. The Bobcats lost to Eastern Washington 92-68 Thursday night in Cheney.

Montana Sports Information