Offensive Uptick Leading Grizzlies, Who Host Weber State and Idaho State This Week


Montana vs. Weber State – WHITE OUT
Thursday / 7 p.m. / Missoula, Mont.

Montana vs. Idaho State
Saturday / 7 p.m. / Missoula, Mont.

Back in first place following three consecutive rivalry wins, Montana will now bring its league-leading record back to Missoula, where the Grizzlies will host Weber State (Thursday) and Idaho State (Saturday).

Head coach Travis DeCuire wouldn’t say revenge is on his team’s mind, following an overtime loss last month in Ogden, but did note that the loss definitely ‘left a bad taste in my mouth’.

Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

The Grizzlies were on their way toward a sixth consecutive victory over the Wildcats. Montana led for 38 minutes of regulation, including by seven points with less than 2 minutes to play. An 8-1 Wildcats run down the stretch, though, forced overtime, in which Weber State won, 87-85.

When Montana and Weber State play, it’s a game always worth watching. The two programs are the class of the Big Sky Conference, ranking No. 1 and 2 for all-time wins, conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances.

After an unusual poor start to the year, Weber State is also becoming a formidable and dangerous opponent. Two weeks ago, Weber State was just 2-6 in league play and ranked 10th out of 11 teams. The overtime win over Montana, though, kick-started a stretch in which the Wildcats have now won four of their past five contests entering play Thursday. The lone loss came at No. 3 Northern Colorado, while two of the wins have been over No. 4 Southern Utah on the road and No. 6 Northern Arizona most recently. The Wildcats are now a single game back from jumping into the upper-half of the league standings.

Weber State also features Jerrick Harding, the current Big Sky Conference Player of the Week who last week became the school’s all-time leading scorer. He scored an arena-record 44 points in a home win over Sacramento State and will likely finish his career ranked second in Big Sky history for career points scored.

While Weber State is one of the hottest teams, Idaho State is trending in the opposite direction since the Grizzlies and Bengals last played. Idaho State’s last win came on Jan. 11, with the Bengals dropping eight in a row since then. While the losses have stacked up, their record can be a little deceiving, keeping Montana’s players and staff on guard.

During Idaho State’s eight-game losing skid, six losses have been by single digits, including three in a row by five points or fewer. While Montana won in Pocatello, the game came down to the wire, 77-74.

Defense has always been a staple of DeCuire-led teams, but it’s been Montana’s offense that has led the Grizzlies during their current winning stretch.

Montana has been one of the nation’s top offensive teams over the past couple of weeks, making at least half of its shots in five straight games and scoring 80 or points in four of those contests (with the one exception being a 78-64 win).

On Jan. 8, Montana was averaging 64.7 points per game on the year, a figure which ranked 315th out of 353 Division-I teams. In the one month since, Montana has jumped 137 spots, to 71.1 points per game. During that nine-game stretch, Montana has averaged 81.9 points per contest.

The shooting numbers have risen, from .428 on Jan. 8 (228th) to .463 this week (52nd) – a rise of 176 spots and into the top 15 percent of all teams nationally. Montana’s 3-point efficiency is the biggest difference, going from .307 (289th) to .357 (63rd).

Over the past nine games – roughly half of conference play and nearly one-third of an entire season – Montana has shot .522 overall, including .438 from long range. Spread across an entire season, Montana’s offense would rank fourth among all NCAA teams for scoring (81.9 points per game, trailing only Gonzaga, Alabama and Duke); second for field-goal shooting (.522, only behind Dayton); and first for 3-point shooting.

“We’ve spent a lot of time getting our offense going, because it was a struggle to make baskets early,” DeCuire said. “We’ve had guys step up – either getting healthy, maturing or getting out of shooting slumps – but the biggest thing, I think, is the ball is moving. We’re sharing and we have the intent to get more assists as a group, which makes us better, and makes us execute a lot better.”

In addition to sharing the ball and turning down good shots for great ones, a defense-first approach has also helped the offense. DeCuire noted that when the team is primarily focused on defending, it generally leads to better offense.

“A lot of it has to do with defense,” DeCuire said. “In the games we’ve been the most focused on defense, and we’ve had five guys executing the defensive plan and not having slippage, that has carried over to the offense.”

Montana, now on a three-game winning streak since the start of February, will look to continue a positive trend this week against the Wildcats and Bengals. Thursday’s game is marketed as a white out, with fans encouraged to wear white Griz gear.


Montana and Weber State first met during the 1962-63 season – the inaugural year of the Big Sky Conference. The Wildcats own a 71-60 advantage, but the Grizzlies are 39-23 against Weber State in Missoula and have won five of the last six meetings overall. Travis DeCuire is 7-5 against the Wildcats. Montana’s last home loss to Weber State came on Dec. 31, 2016, 84-81 in overtime.

A season ago, Montana beat Weber State three times, leading by at least 20 points each time. The Grizzlies used a 20-0 run in a January meeting in Missoula before holding on by seven. During a run of 8:29 in the first half, Weber State shot 0-for-11 with five turnovers. Last month in Ogden, Montana led for 38 minutes of regulation, including by seven with under 2 minutes to play, before the Wildcats closed on an 8-1 run to force overtime and winning 87-85. Sayeed Pridgett scored a career-high 33 points in the defeat while playing all 45 minutes. Pridgett has been in double figures the last four meetings against the Wildcats, including a 29-point, 16-rebound performance at Weber State last February.


Montana has had plenty of success over the Bengals, posting a 106-46 record. The 106 victories are the second-most against any opponent. Montana has only played Montana State, Idaho and Gonzaga more times than it has Idaho State.

The Grizzlies have had success overall, but especially lately, winning 18 in a row in the series, including 9-0 under Travis DeCuire. Montana’s last loss to Idaho State came more than a decade ago (67-65 in January 2010). Montana’s last home loss to the Bengals came in January 2008. Overall, the Grizzlies are 66-13 against Idaho State in Missoula.

In last year’s home meeting, Montana led by three at halftime, but scored 19 points in the first 7 minutes of the second half, all before the Bengals had made a shot from the floor. Kendal Manuel made his first start, scoring 16 points and connecting on four 3-pointers.


After dropping back-to-back games to close January, Montana has gotten back on track, winning three consecutive rivalry games to begin February. Montana’s win last Thursday over Eastern Washington allowed the Grizzlies to jump the Eagles in the standings, back into first place.

Montana has won its past three games by double figures.

  • Following Montana’s 92-82 win over Eastern Washington last Thursday, the Grizzlies jumped the Eagles into first place in the Big Sky standings.
  • A half-game behind Montana (10-3) is Eastern Washington (9-3). The Grizzlies benefited from Portland State’s road win at Northern Colorado on Monday, which pushed the Bears 1.5 games behind Montana (8-4).
  • A jammed middle of the pack features Southern Utah (7-5), Northern Arizona (7-6), Montana State (6-6) and Portland State and Weber State (6-7).
  • Of the 69 Big Sky games entering Thursday, 41 have been decided by single digits, including 19 by a single possession.

Senior Kendal Manuel, who began his collegiate career at Oregon State, is 12 points shy of 1,000 for his career, with more than two-thirds of them coming as a Griz.


Senior Sayeed Pridgett has accomplished plenty in his career, as the versatile player is expected to finish his career ranked in the top 10 in Montana history for points and steals, and near the top 10 for rebounding.

He has also been consistent, scoring in double figures in 38 straight games, beginning Feb. 7, 2019. Nationally, only Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle (89), College of Charleston’s Grant Riller (56), Detroit’s Antoine Davis (53), CSUN’s Lamine Diane (46) and Hampton’s Jermaine Marrow (40) have longer active streaks than Pridgett.


Montana will play just one game next week, traveling to Montana State for Round 2 of the Brawl of the Wild (Feb. 22). The Grizzlies will then stay on the road to play at Northern Arizona (Feb. 27) and Sacramento State (Feb. 29).