Orediggers Stun Grizzlies in Missoula


Montana head coach Travis DeCuire didn’t like the urgency his team had been playing with lately, and it showed on Monday as the Grizzlies fell to Montana Tech, 74-72.

Montana led by as many as 7 points in the second half, and seemed to create some separation following a Kendal Manuel three-pointer on one end, before Timmy Falls intercepted a pass, took it the length of the court and threw the ball behind his back to Manuel for an emphatic dunk to put the home team up 5, 71-66, with under 2 minutes to play.

Shortly after, though, Montana Tech’s Troy Owens, Jr. buried a three-pointer to cut the Orediggers’ deficit to one, which was followed up by a long jumper from Taylor England to give Montana Tech the lead, 73-72, with 24 seconds on the clock.

The Grizzlies turned the ball over on the other end – one of three turnovers over the final 1:27 – and Montana Tech made one of its two free throws to take a 74-72 lead.

With 7.3 seconds to play, Montana had one last chance, but couldn’t get a good look. Freshman Josh Vazquez dribbled the ball up the court before passing it off to Sayeed Pridgett, who took a running attempt at the buzzer from just inside the three-point arc.

The loss was Montana’s first against a non-Division-I opponent since 2002-03 at Alaska-Anchorage, and its first to a non-DI school at home since 1980-81 to Puget Sound.

“Any opponent you bring in here is going to be prepared to play with juice and energy, and you have to show up with the same level of energy,” DeCuire said. “We’ve been talking for three weeks now about respecting your opponents and giving them your ‘A’ game every night, and we’re not doing that right now.”

The start to the game was an omen for what was to come. DeCuire called a timeout just 91 seconds into the contest after his team turned the ball over twice and already found itself trailing 7-2.

From there, the Grizzlies looked to settle in, though. The two teams traded buckets blow for blow through much of the first half, with both teams hitting above 50 percent through the game’s first 12 minutes.

Montana then created a little separation with a 6-0 run – forcing turnovers on three consecutive Montana Tech positions, and four of five – to take a 30-25 lead. Late in the first half, the Orediggers were held to 1-of-9 shooting with four turnovers over a 5-minute stretch.

They responded with two late three-pointers to enter the locker room tied at 36-36.

“We’re not good enough right now, and we have a long ways to go,” DeCuire said. “We’ve shown signs of being a team that can defend, but we’re not doing it consistently.”

One of the lone bright spots for Montana was the play of Kendal Manuel. The senior had struggled to find his groove through three games, but made his first four shot attempts on Monday, leading to a game-high 25 points, including several big buckets in the second half.

Pridgett scored 14 points while freshman Kyle Owens also added 14 – going 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. Falls chipped in with 11 points.

“We’ve been playing with fire and without energy, and it burned us tonight,” DeCuire said. “The details are beating us up right now, and that’s on me. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Griz, who now travel to No. 25 Washington for a date with the Huskies on Friday night.