Seniors Lead Montana to Another Brawl of the Wild Victory

Montana capped a decade of dominance against Montana State on Saturday, winning for the 19th time in the past 20 meetings. The Grizzlies have won 11 of their last 12 in Bozeman, including a 59-54 win on Saturday night.

Montana trailed on just four occasions, and never by more than two points. The Grizzlies led for the final 31 minutes of the game, holding MSU without a made field goal for 8 minutes on two separate occasions.

The first instance came at the end of the first half, when MSU shot 0-for-7 with three turnovers over the final 8:30, allowing the Grizzlies to enter the locker room with a 28-20 advantage.

Early in the second half, though, MSU’s Amin Adamu stole the ball near midcourt and raced to the basket where he slammed it home to get the Bobcats within three, 37-34, with 14 minutes to play. With a capacity crowd of 6,570 on its feet, the momentum began to temporarily shift.

It was very short-lived, however.

Just moments later, Montana’s lead was back to double digits as the Grizzlies scored the next seven points. In fact, MSU wouldn’t make its next basket for another 9 minutes. By that point, the Grizzlies had a game-high 49-35 advantage.

Kendal Manuel at Montana State 2/22/20. Photo by Derek Johnson.

“I think it just swung momentum and got us going again,” senior Kendal Manuel said. “After that dunk, it was a big shift and we felt it. Once we got that layup and three I think that it shifted back for us.”

“There’s only one way to silence a crowd, right? And it’s to score the ball,” added Travis DeCuire, who improved to 11-1 as head coach of the Griz. “These guys did a phenomenal job. To have guys like this that can go out and respond and silence the crowd, that’s huge.”

MSU would have one more run in it, getting to within four, 53-49, with 2 minutes to play following a Harald Frey three-point play.

The Grizzlies, though, had a counterpunch once again, scoring on their next three offensive possessions, beginning with a put-back basket from Derrick Carter-Hollinger following an offensive board by the freshman.

“We don’t win that game if D.J. doesn’t go get those balls he got and make that big, mid-range pull-up,” DeCuire said of his freshman.”

Carter-Hollinger had the big play down the stretch, but it was Montana’s three seniors who carried the Grizzlies throughout the night.

Kendal Manuel at Montana State 2/22/20. Photo by Derek Johnson.

Kendal Manuel, a Billings native, scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Sayeed Pridgett added 15 points and Jared Samuelson chipped in with 10. In total, the trio scored 75 percent of the team’s points, including 16 of the first 18 made baskets.

Despite scoring just 59 points, Montana shot .480 from the floor. The big difference was Montana’s defense, which limited the Cats to .354 shooting, including 3-of-20 from deep. It marked the third straight game that Montana has held its opponent to under .400 shooting.

Quoting DeCuire
(on the seniors)
“There was a lot of adversity for all three of those guys. When it came to winning time, they did the things they needed to do to go win the game. They went and got the ball, they shared it, they executed… it was fun to watch that happen.”

Travis DeCuire at Montana State 2/22/20. Photo bny Derek Johnson.

(on Montana’s defensive performance)
“We grinded. You have to minimize 3-point shooters and you have to fight the touch in the post. We caught them off guard doubling the post; we hadn’t done that much this year. With (Harald) Frey, I thought we did a good job containing him. Guys did a good job forcing him into bad shots.”

(on Timmy Falls playing 26 minutes after injuring his ankle last week)
“I didn’t want to play him, but I asked the staff to do what we can to get him as ready as possible, let’s pretend like we’re going to play him and we have a championship game on Saturday. Worst case, we get him ready and he’s ready for next Thursday. He got closer and closer, and the way he was moving around yesterday, I kind of felt like he could go. Then we came and watched the women’s game, and I knew what would happen: He walks in, he sees the crowd and he comes to me and says, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go.’

Mack Anderson at Montana State 2/20/22. Photo by Derek Johnson.

Looking Ahead
With two weeks to play in the regular season, Montana has an inside track to a third consecutive Big Sky championship. To get to that point, though, the Grizzlies will likely have to win on the road, with their next two games coming at a surging Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. Montana will then close the regular season at home against second-place Northern Colorado and Southern Utah.

At 13-3, Montana has a full-game lead over Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado (12-4).