Montana Scraps Out Road Win Over Rival


Rivalry game. Under 2 minutes to play. Montana leads by two, but the Bobcats have the ball.

“You couldn’t draw it up any better,” head coach Travis DeCuiresaid. “There was a lot of drama. Foul trouble, runs, struggle defensively. What I wrote on the board before the game was ‘hustle chart’. We were going to have to out-scrap them to get the W.”

Montana State’s Harald Frey, who finished the game with 15 points and 10 assists, dribbled up the court but was quickly trapped near midcourt, taking away the opportunity to set up a play. With the chance to tie the game or take the lead, the Big Sky’s top scoring offense instead had to force a long, desperation attempt as the shot clock expired.

Photo courtesy of UM Athletics.

Montana rebounded the missed shot and quickly scored on the other end, increasing its lead to two scores with under a minute to play.

Despite trailing at the half, Montana fought back and fended off the Bobcats on Saturday, winning 83-78 for their 16th rivalry win in the past 17 tries.

Montana had six players score at least seven points, led by Ahmaad Rorie’s 20 points and nine rebounds.

The Grizzlies jumped out to a hot start, leading by a dozen less than 11 minutes into the game. Montana State clawed back, though, using a 10-0 run over the final 2:39 of the first half to take a 48-46 lead into the locker room.

Montana regained the lead less than 5 minutes into the second half and led for good following a Jamar Akoh dunk with 9:09 to play.

The game was far from without drama, though. Aside from a run that briefly put the Grizzlies up by eight, the two teams were within two possessions for all but 22 seconds in the second half.

Game Notables:

  • Montana has beaten Montana State in 16 of the past 17 meetings dating back to the 2010-11 season.
  • Montana State entered the game averaging a league-best 84.2 points per Big Sky game. The Grizzlies held the Bobcats more than six points below their season average.
  • Montana trailed by as many as four points in the second half, but led for the final 9:09 after a Jamar Akoh dunk.
  • Montana State’s Tyler Hall, the Big Sky’s all-time scoring leader, scored 26 points, but just five came in the second half, with Bobby Moorehead primarily guarding him. After shooting 8-of-13 (3-of-6 from deep) in the first half, the senior was just 2-of-7 in the second.
  • As a team, MSU shot 54.8 percent in the first half (17-of-31) before shooting just 38.7 percent in the second frame (12-of-31).
  • Montana shot 50.0 percent overall, marking the 11th time this season the Grizzlies have made at least half of their shots.
  • Montana out-rebounded its opponents (35-32) for the 10th time in the past 11 games.
  • Leading 68-67 with 7:19 to play, Montana used a 9-2 run to take an eight-point lead, its largest of the second half. Akoh had five of the points.
  • Freshman Mack Anderson, a Bozeman native, entered the game midway through the first half and made an immediate impact. During a 13-second period, Anderson scored on back-to-back possessions, including an alley-oop dunk from Rorie to give the Griz a game-high 12-point lead.
  • Senior Donaven Dorsey scored 10 points – all in the first half – for his highest point total since scoring 14 vs. Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 17. Among his points were a three-pointer and a monstrous and-one dunk.
  • Despite being limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble, junior Sayeed Pridgett scored eight points, dished out four assists and collected six rebounds. Perhaps his biggest basket came with under a minute to play, a beautiful feed from Akoh to give Montana a four-point lead.
  • Senior Michael Oguine scored 17 points while forcing three steals. He led the Grizzlies with 14 points in the first half.
  • Akoh finished with a dozen points, 10 of which came in the second half.
  • Montana forced MSU into 11 turnovers. The Bobcats had gone six consecutive games with nine or fewer turnovers. On the flip side, Montana has turned opponents over at least 10 times in 54 of the past 55 games.
  • Quoting DeCuire
    “We gave up 54 percent (in the first half), (Harald) Frey was getting wherever he wanted to be. His seven assists were really bigger than Tyler Hall’s 21 points, because we knew he would make shots and take shots. We had to keep Frey out of the paint and once we did that, that’s when we went on our runs.”(on the performance of Anderson and Dorsey off the bench)
    “We’ve got pieces that can give us some things offensively. Mack’s length and athleticism running the floor, we knew he could out-run their bigs. Donaven is always going to be a threat offensively. Even when he’s not making shots, it spreads the floor out. Lately, he’s gotten more aggressive at the rim.”(on coming from behind)
    “You’ve just got to play through it. You know there’s going to be adversity, and sometimes you’ve got to go in thinking you have to be 10 points better than your opponent, and I don’t mean offensively, I mean defensively.”

    (on Moorehead shutting down Hall in the second half)
    “We wanted Bob on Frey to see if we could keep him out of the paint, and then Hall got going early and we said, ‘Forget it, let’s go shut him down’. We changed the ball-screen coverage a little bit and figured some things out. Once he got aggressive on the drive we got aggressive again, and that’s where the turnovers came from.”

    (on beating Montana State)
    “Our community is all about it. There’s nothing worse than a bus ride home after an L. We’ve witnessed one of those and I never want to do that again. It feels good to go back to Missoula knowing you beat the Cats and everybody is excited and you’re building some momentum.”

    Looking Ahead
    Montana has now won a season-best five consecutive games and currently sits in first place in the Big Sky, owning the tiebreaker over Northern Colorado, which is also 8-2. The second half of Big Sky play begins when Idaho visits Missoula on Thursday night.