Grizzlies Lose 70-69 Heartbreaker at Sacramento State

By DAVE GUFFEY

In a game showcasing the two best teams in the Big Sky Conference, it was the Sacramento State Hornets who escaped with a 70-69 victory on a Dylan Garrity three-pointer with six seconds remaining.

The Hornet’s Nest that was filled to, and most likely past, capacity exploded as Garrity’s three pointer from the corner found the bottom of the net to give the host’s a crucial victory in the Big Sky title chase.

Garrity isn’t new to big-time situations, either. Nearly a year ago, 364 days to be exact, he became an online sensation after making a 70-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Weber State.

He had a much higher percentage look Saturday night, but once again proved he has ice in his veins come crunch time.

The Grizzlies (11-9/7-2 BSC) had a couple chances for the win on the next possession, but a Mike Weisner three rimmed out for a long rebound that fell to Jack Lopez, whose shot at the buzzer hit the back rim and fell out.

Sacramento State (15-6/9-1 BSC) opened the game strong, taking a quick 8-2 lead after a Cody Demps three with 16:47 left in the first. The Griz calmed their nerves and fought back, taking their first lead of the game at 15-13 on a Martin Breunig and-one with just under nine minutes remaining.

Sacramento State quickly regained the lead and stretched it out to five before Mario Dunn drilled a three-pointer with just two seconds remaining to send the Griz into the half down just two, 32-30.

The Grizzlies had seven turnovers and 12 fouls in the first half, compared to just five turnovers and six fouls for the Hornets.

If the Griz could have started faster and limited turnovers, coach Travis DeCuire believed his team could have led at the half.

“We dug ourselves into a little hole early,” he said. “I thought we should have been up ten at the half if we took care of the ball.”

The second half started out with a bang for the Griz. On their first possession, Brandon Gfeller found Breunig on a back-cut for a slam-dunk plus a foul. Breunig converted the three-point play to give the Griz a 33-32 lead.

Sacramento State tied the game again with a free throw on their next possession. Then the Grizzlies caught fire.

Brandon Gfeller connected from long-distance twice and Weisner made a triple of his own during a 9-0 Grizzly run that gave them a 42-33 lead with 16:48 left in the game.

Then, with 9:34 remaining in the half, Jordan Gregory was fouled while attempting a three-point shot. Sacramento State coach Brian Katz protested the call, resulting in a technical foul.

Gregory then went to the line for five consecutive free throws, connecting on three of them to give Montana a 59-46 lead.

The technical sparked the Hornets, as they went on an 11-3 run, cutting Montana’s lead to 62-57, to get the game within reach entering the final stretch.

The Griz led by just three when Breunig converted another and-one drive. Then, Dunn stole the ball as Sacramento State was bringing it up the court and finished an acrobatic reverse lay-up to give the Griz five points in just nine seconds and, more importantly, an eight-point lead at 69-61 with 3:03 left on the game clock.

Sacramento State then went on a 9-0 run, capped off by the Garrity three, to take a 70-69 lead with six seconds on the clock.

After a timeout, the Grizzlies inbounded the ball to half court, where they took another timeout with five seconds remaining. On the inbound, Weisner curled around a Jack Lopez screen to get the ball on the left wing, where he attempted a contested three-pointer.

The shot rimmed out, but Jack Lopez gathered the long rebound and was able to put another shot up before time expired. The ball hit the back iron and fell to the ground, however, and Sacramento State was able to escape with the victory.

DeCuire said he would have liked to get a better look on the final shot.

“We had Jack as a decoy with Jordan and Mike both coming off the same screen,” he said. “I would have liked to have seen us attack the rim rather than settle, but it rims out and that’s what we get.”

Foul trouble was a major problem for the Griz. Breunig and Gfeller both fouled out with more than 1:30 remaining in the game. Montana finished the game with 25 fouls, compared to 14 for Sacramento State.

BBQ“We fouled too much,” DeCuire said. “It’s amazing because the defense we play is not a pressure defense, we’re not coming out and getting you, but we continue to foul people a lot and it’s costingus.”

The foul trouble limited playing time for both Gfeller and Breunig. Gfeller, who was 4-for-4 from three-point range in the second half, picked up his fourth personal with 9:03 left in the second. He spent the next five minutes on the bench and didn’t score again in the game.

“Our hot hand got cooled off,” DeCuire said. “Gfeller is probably going to have the game of his life and then he gets a couple hand check calls.”

As the final buzzer sounded Sacramento State fans stormed the court. A big celebration involving players ensued, but DeCuire isn’t so sure they should be celebrating yet.

“I’m not sure if we won we would have celebrated the way they did tonight,” he said. “I don’t think the championship was won tonight.”

But DeCuire plans on using the celebration as motivation for his players.

“It’s important for us to see that,” he said. “The learning moment for us is to understand how important and how big this game was to them, and we need to match that and feel that intensity. We did that for some stretches, I just don’t think we sustained it.”

Gfeller finished with a game-high 20 points, including a 6-for-8 (75 percent) clip from deep. He also tied with Gregory for the team lead with five rebounds each.

Dunn had a very efficient game for the Griz, finishing with 14 points and a team-high five assists. Gregory, Breunig and Weisner all ended the game with 11 points.

Mikh McKinney, the second-best scorer in the Big Sky at 19.1 ppg, scored 18 and dished out a game-high six assists. Cody Demps also finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 (75 percent) shooting.

Eric Stuteville was also big for the Hornets, finishing with 13 points and five rebounds. He was 9-of-15 (60 percent) from the free throw line.

The Griz finished the game with 25 fouls and 15 turnovers. They were outscored at the free throw line by 18 points.

The win snapped a 15-game winning streak for Montana in the series. They lead the series 36-6 all-time. This is the first time in school history that Sacramento State has led the Big Sky 10 games into the season.

The Grizzlies have two important Big Sky Conference games coming at home in the next week, including a tough match-up against Eastern Washington (16-5/7-1 BSC) Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. They then host Idaho (8-11/3-5 BSC) on Saturday Feb. 7, also at 7 p.m.

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Montana Sports Information