MISSOULA – The Montana Grizzlies started slow. But they soon got a sold-out Dahlberg Arena rocking. UM ran away from rival Montana State, 90-63 Saturday night.
The packed building was buzzing with energy at the opening tip. But the play on the court turned sloppy. A foul-and-missed filled opening 16 minutes left the game low-scoring, and largely difficult to watch. The two teams remained close. And after a Harald Frey jumper, the Bobcats only trailed 21-19.
Then Montana flipped a switch, and freshman Timmy Falls was the one to turn it on. He quickly contributed nine points during a 13-0 run, hitting two three-pointers and finishing a three-point play on a fastbreak. The guard came off the bench to score 14 points in the first half, which tied him for the game-high even though he didn’t score in the second half.
Montana used the run to build a 37-21 lead at the break. And the lead quickly ballooned to 20 in the first minute of the second half. Montana State never closed within 17 points the rest of the game.
Montana started six for 21 from the field, but then shot 64 percent for the rest of the game. The Bobcats only managed 31 percent shooting in Missoula.
UM head coach Travis DeCuire has relied heavily on his starters this season. But the three young players off his bench proved to be the biggest difference versus the Cats. Adding to Falls 14 points, sophomore wing Sayeed Pridgett also scored 14. And freshman big-man Karl Nicholas chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Griz needed the trio, because their biggest inside threat, Jamar Akoh, fouled out in only 16 minutes of action. And star junior guards Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine both had off shooting nights by their standards. Rorie still scored 13 points while adding six assists. Oguine scored 11 and pulled down nine rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Frey paced the Bobcats with 14 points. Keljin Blevins added 12. Star junior guard Tyler Hall was hounded all night by multiple Grizzlies. He only scored 11 points on 2/16 shooting.
Montana improves to 14-2 in Big Sky Conference play. And after Idaho’s win at second place Weber State Saturday night, the Griz have clinched at least a share of the Big Sky regular season title. They can win it outright with one win in their final two games next week.
Montana State falls to 6-10 and sits in eighth place in the league.
Both teams will finish their regular seasons with home games versus Weber State and Idaho State next week.