Montana Grizzlies hand Portland State worst loss of season

Posted at 11:10 PM, Feb 08, 2018

(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA – Montana opened the second half on a 12-0 run to take a commanding lead over Portland State on Thursday evening, and never let off the gas in an 80-60 victory to improve to 12-0 in Big Sky Conference action.

Like they’ve been for much of the season, the Grizzlies were again dominant on both sides of the ball.

Portland State entered the contest ranked fourth nationally, averaging 88.3 points per game. The Vikings were held to a season-low 60 on 31.3-percent shooting.

Portland State leads the country for steals per game (10.7) and ranks second nationally for turnovers forced (19.7), but recorded just four steals and 10 total turnovers against Montana – both tied for season lows.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 23 (season-high for a Portland State opponent), and the 20-point margin of victory was the widest of the season for the Vikings, surpassing No. 1 Duke’s 19-point win in November. Last month, the Grizzlies allowed 89 points in a three-point victory at Portland State.

“Defense has to be our identity if we’re going to continue to win,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “I’m happy with our defense. Our effort is there, and we’ve got a group of guys that are committed to playing defense.”

Juniors Michael Oguine and Jamar Akoh recorded double-doubles, marking the first time this season that Montana has had two players accomplish the feat on the same night. Oguine finished with 14 points and a season-high 10 rebounds, while Akoh had 21 and 10 – his second consecutive 20-point outing and double-double.

“Mike’s a silent assassin,” DeCuire said. “To have 14 points on seven shots is amazing. He lets the game come to him. Jamar’s been steady Eddy. His double-doubles are starting to add up. Once we started attacking the paint we got them in trouble.”

Ahmaad Rorie and Sayeed Pridgett were key factors as well. Rorie had 12 points and six assists, while Pridgett had 14 points and five rebounds.

The Grizzlies trailed by as many as four points midway through the first half, turning the ball over six times in the game’s first 8 minutes. However, Montana turned the ball over just four more times over the final 32 minutes.

They went 6:29 without a field goal in the first half, but were still in a back-and-forth game thanks to free throws. The Vikings were whistled for 12 personal fouls in the first 10 minutes of the game. At one point, Montana had 18 free-throw shots compared to just 10 field-goal attempts.

Once Montana finally broke the spell and hit a field goal, the team went on a 7-0 run to turn a 21-17 deficit into a three-point lead, and then closed the half on a 17-8 run to lead by five entering the locker room.

“One of the things we always say to the guys is to not let the offense affect your defense,” DeCuire said. “We locked down, we defended, we held them to two made threes in the first half. As long as you defend, you’re going to have a chance.”

As has been customary, the Grizzlies improved in the second half, beginning the period on a 12-0 run and leading by at least 13 for the remainder of the night. After shooting 31 percent in the first half, Montana connected on 57 percent of its shots in the second. The Grizzlies held the Vikings to 31 percent shooting overall and had seven blocked shots and seven steals.

“Once we minimized their catch-and-shoot opportunities we were in good shape,” DeCuire said.

The Grizzlies have now won 12 consecutive games and are 10-0 at home this season. The 12-game winning streak is the sixth-best in program history and the seventh-longest active streak in the country. Montana will look to extend both streaks on Saturday, facing Sacramento State at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Adams Center ticket office.