GREELEY, Colo. – Following Thursday’s road loss to Eastern Washington, Travis DeCuire made a challenge to his team.
“At some point in time, you have to look in that mirror and you have to make it happen, and right now we have 15 guys that need to look in that mirror,” DeCuire said on Thursday.
Message heard, loud and clear.
The Grizzlies put together their most impressive showing of the season on Saturday afternoon, thumping previously unbeaten Northern Colorado, 88-64, at Bank of Colorado Arena.
Some of the numbers that stand out from the shut-down performance:
- Montana’s 88 points scored were the second-most Northern Colorado has allowed this season. They came on 57 percent shooting, including 67 percent from deep (8-of-12).
- More impressive, Montana held Northern Colorado to 64 points on 42 percent shooting. The Bears entered the game ranked 38th nationally, averaging 81.6 points per game. UNC’s point total was nearly 18 points below its season average and the second-lowest of the season.
- UNC’s Jordan Davis, ranked No. 6 nationally with more than 25 points per game, was limited to his lowest output against a Division-I opponent (18 on 7-of-17 shooting). Bobby Moorehead was Davis’ primary defender, locking the senior down.
Sayeed Pridgett was a force from the start, scoring Montana’s first 12 points.
At that point the scoreboard read: Pridgett 12, Northern Colorado 11.
The junior would finish with a career-high 29 on 11-of-13 shooting, including a pair of buckets during a big Montana run.
Northern Colorado led 14-12 with 13:15 to play in the opening half, before Montana went on a 9-0 run to take control of the game. The Grizzlies extended the spurt to 18-4 – receiving points from six different players –and led for the remainder of the contest, including by as many as 30 points.
- Montana turned the ball over a season-low nine times. Conversely, the Grizzlies had a season-high 12 steals, led by three from Ahmaad Rorie and two apiece from Jamar Akoh and Michael Oguine.
- Oguine had two blocked shots, which came on back-to-back possessions in the first half.
- In addition to scoring 18 points below its season average, UNC also was just 2-of-13 from three-point range (15.4 percent). The Bears entered the game averaging 38.3 (36th in NCAA).
- Montana out-rebounded its opponent for the seventh consecutive game, doing so in convincing fashion (34 to 24). Four Grizzlies had at least five rebounds, led by eight apiece from Akoh and Moorehead. UNC entered the game ranked 63rd in the NCAA with a +5.0 rebounding margin.
- Nine players scored, including four in double figures. In addition to Pridgett’s 29, Rorie had 13 points and four assists, Akoh scored 12 and Oguine chipped in 11.
- Rorie moved into 10th place in school history with nearly 1,400 career points scored.
- Montana led by a dozen at halftime, 47-35, which at the time was UNC’s largest deficit of the season at home. The Grizzlies pushed the lead to as many as 30 points.
- Montana led by at least 20 points for the final 13:28 of the game.
- The Grizzlies improved to 8-1 vs. UNC under DeCuire.
- Montana has now on four of its past five true road games.
(on his team’s preparation following back-to-back losses)
“Team effort. As a staff, probably our best preparation, even though it was a quick turnaround. As a group, our guys were very focused. We made a couple changes on both sides of the ball with not a lot of time, and I think they (UNC) prepared for some things they didn’t see. The biggest thing, I thought, was our mental preparation. I thought the guys were focused on one thing, and that was a big W.”
(on distributing the ball offensively)
“We knew defensively we were capable of doing that against good teams, kind of similar to the South Dakota State game. Offensively, I was more impressed with what we did and how we moved the ball. We went away from sets and went more to motion, and we’ve never really been a motion team. We had to trust each other, and that was our No. 1 key going into the game.”
(on Pridgett’s career day)
“He was locked in. One of the things for us, we have a lot of guys who can score, and sometimes if you don’t get shots for long stretches, you get uncomfortable, you get antsy and you take bad shots. Today was the first time we had all five guys willing to just let the ball go where it needed to go.”
(on the leadership of Akoh)
“I thought the biggest example was the way he went and dove for that loose ball. Next thing you know, Bobby’s (Moorehead’s) doing it, it’s contagious. He affected winning without scoring the ball or getting 15 rebounds.”
(on maintaining this type of play)
“Some of it’s us staying on the guys about the things they don’t want to hear, but it’s also assuming responsibility. We alieve the individual leadership and made the agreement that all five upperclassmen have to lead, plus Kendal (Manuel) off the bench at times too.”
Montana will play just one game next week, but it will again be on the road. The Grizzlies travel to Moscow, Idaho, to face the Vandals on Saturday, Jan. 19. Twelve of Montana’s first 19 games will come away from Missoula.