Montana Earns Upset Win Over Washington

It was a happy homecoming for head coach Travis DeCuire, who earned a 66-58 win over the Washington Huskies on Wednesday night. DeCuire, a native of nearby Rainier Beach, has spent the majority of his life in the Seattle area.

The win was Montana’s first over a Power-5 school since November 2017 at Pitt, and first over a Pac-12 program in a decade (Dec. 15, 2010 vs. Oregon State).

“It’s hard to explain,” DeCuire said of the win. “I go into the locker and I don’t even really have a post-game speech. So many guys did things that we needed to win.”

Montana led for 28 consecutive minutes before the Huskies tied the game at 48-48, and took the lead moments later, 53-51, with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining.

Montana, though, was unfazed.

Like he did twice earlier this month against Southern Utah, sophomore Josh Vazquez hit a clutch 3-pointer to push the lead back in the Grizzlies’ favor, 54-53, with 3:32 left.

Vazquez connected on two free throws on Montana’s next trip up the court, and after getting two big stops on the defensive end, freshman Brandon Whitney raised Vazquez’s 3-pointer with one equally as big.

Photo by David Staggs, courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

Washington used a timeout with Montana on top, 59-53, with 2:16 to play, but the Grizzlies carried the momentum back onto the court. The Grizzlies got two more stops – sandwiched in between another Vazquez runner – forcing the Huskies to start playing the foul game.

“The defense got those (3-pointers) for us, but (Brandon) Whitney and (Josh) Vazquez were ready, they stepped up,” DeCuire said. “(Assistant coaches Chris) Cobb, (Jay Flores) Flo and Zach (Payne) were yelling at both of those guys, ‘Get your feet ready, be ready to bang one’, and they both did that.”

After trailing 53-51, Montana went on a 10-0 run, with all 10 points coming from underclassmen. Meanwhile, the Huskies missed nine of their last 10 shots over the game’s final 6 minutes.

Montana led for more than 32 minutes of the game, and never trailed by more than four points. The Grizzlies fell behind 5-1 early, but took a 6-5 lead moments later, which extended to 18-8 thanks to a 17-3 Montana run. The visitors led by as many as 15 points (31-16).

In the second half, Montana trailed on just two occasions, for a total of 50 seconds.

Six players scored for the Griz, with each contributing at least eight points. Sophomore Kyle Owens led Montana for scoring with 13 points, but the big story was the freshmen play of Josh Bannan and Whitney.

Bannon scored 12 points while tallying his first career double-double, with 12 big rebounds. Whitney scored 10 points – including the big 3-pointer – but his biggest impact came on the defensive end.

Whitney guarded McDonald’s All-American Quade Green, the Huskies’ leading scorer who was averaging 17 points per game. Green was limited to 1-of-11 shooting and four total points.

“Before the game, I was talking to the staff, and I said for a freshman we’re asking a lot of Brandon Whitney,” DeCuire said. “He’s had to defend really good guards up to this point. He holds him (Green) to zero points in the first half, and that sets the tone, and that’s a team effort. Guys were in the right places doing the things they need to do, and we rebounded the ball well, but Brandon Whitney stepped up big time defensively for us and gave us a chance on the defensive end.”

Behind the 17-3 first-half run, Montana took a 12-point lead into the locker room, despite making one shot over the final 7 minutes of the half. The Huskies cut the deficit to six points minutes into the second half, but Montana built the lead back up to double digits shortly after with one of their four 6-0 runs on the night.

Overall, Montana was limited to 37-percent shooting, but made 22 of 27 free-throw attempts (81 percent). The Grizzlies, who have struggled on the boards this season, were also nearly even with the Huskies (34 to 35) and forced the Huskies into 16 turnovers (10 in the first half).

“That was one heck of a team effort, and sometimes a game that looks like you might have a chance to pull away gets ugly and you’ve got to be tough enough to finish it, and that was the grit that’s been missing and we were wondering if we had it,” DeCuire said. “Now we know it’s there, and now it’s up to us to sustain it.”

The win over Washington is Montana’s first since 1994, when DeCuire was a senior for the Grizzlies.

More from DeCuire
“Our bench was good tonight and our staff was great. We were an efficient basketball team tonight, and that’s what you have to be to win these type of games.”

“It’s always huge. I’ve got so many friends and family here, and the 24-hour lead-up of text messages of support were huge. When you’ve got guys that you’ve known since you were single digits in age texting you saying, ‘This win’s yours, go get it,’ it’s huge to go get it.”

“I felt like we were getting the ball, we were rebounding and we stopped their run. That allowed us to flow into our offense. In transition, the zone is not very good and so because we got down the floor, we called the fast break offense and that spreads the floor better than a walk up.”

“When we were able to do that, they had a hard time getting it out of the high post and getting to the shooters and they didn’t know who had the wings.”

Looking Ahead
Montana will now travel back to Montana on Thursday, before hosting Dickinson State on Friday afternoon (4 p.m.). The game vs. the Blue Hawks was a late addition, added earlier this week.