Montana Grizzlies miss chance to clinch Big Sky title with loss at Portland State

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(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)

PORLTLAND, OR – Montana was unable to do what it set out to do on Thursday evening, falling at Portland State, 81-69. With a win, the Grizzlies would have locked up the No. 1 seed for next week’s Big Sky Championships. Instead, Montana falls into a tie with Northern Colorado with one game to play.

The good news for the Grizzlies: win Saturday, and regardless what other teams do, they will win at least a share of a Big Sky Conference title and play as the No. 1 seed. In the event Montana and Northern Colorado finish tied, Montana would hold the tiebreaker. The only team Northern Colorado has an advantage over UM is Portland State, which cannot finish ahead of Weber State, which Montana has the tiebreaker over UNC.

The Grizzlies were locked in a tight battle early on Thursday, but used an 8-0 run to take a four-point lead (16-12 with 9:13 to play). That would be the last time Montana would be in front, however, as Portland State closed the half on a 21-7 run to enter the locker room with a double-digit lead. Things got worse from there, as the Vikings scored the first nine points of the second half, and less than 5 minutes into the period had built a 20-point advantage.

The Grizzlies wouldn’t go away quietly, however, in large part due to junior Sayeed Pridgett. Montana used a 9-0 run to get within 11 points with 11 minutes to play, and would get as close as six down the stretch. Pridgett scored a game-high 28 points. The junior had just one shot in the first half but shot 11-of-16 in the second, including a stretch in which he scored 12 consecutive Griz points.

Game Notables
• The loss was Montana’s first on the road since Jan. 10. It snapped the team’s five-game home winning streak, which was tied for the 10th-best active streak in the nation.
• The Grizzlies lost for just the second time this season when out-shooting its opponent (21-2). The Grizzlies shot 50.9 percent from the floor, the 15th time this season the Griz have made at least half of their shot attempts.
• Montana was out-rebounded for just the second time in the past 20 games (34-29). The Vikings rank in the top 20 nationally for rebounding and rebounding margin.
• PSU leads the nation with 15.5 offensive rebounds per game, but was limited to just nine on Thursday, including 10 second-chance points.
• Montana turned the ball over 10 times in the game’s first 13 minutes, but only turned the ball over twice more over the final 27 minutes. What’s more, PSU only scored 10 points off of the Grizzlies’ dozen giveaways.
• Sayeed Pridgett scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half, including a stretch in which he scored 12 consecutive UM points.
• Sophomore Timmy Falls saw his most action in the past 11 games (25 minutes). In addition to his defense, he scored nine points and dished out four assists.
• Bobby Moorehead had a team-high 10 rebounds. He is averaging 7.1 rebounds per game over the past eight contests.
• For just the second time in five seasons, the Grizzlies were swept by a Big Sky team.
• Trailing 16-12, Montana used an 8-0 run in a span of 80 seconds, making three consecutive shots.
• After closing the half on a 21-7 run, including a stretch in which Montana didn’t score for more than 4 minutes, PSU held the Grizzlies without a point for the opening 4 minutes of the second half, scoring nine straight points to earn a 20-point lead.
• After trailing by 20, 52-32, Montana held PSU without a point 4:26, using a 9-0 run to get within 11 points. During the stretch, the Vikings were 0-for-6 shooting with three turnovers.

Quoting head coach Travis DeCuire

(on not being able to overcome the large deficit)
“The reality is, we have to toughen up, we have to scrap. You can’t lose a game because you got out-hustled. Four times in the second half, we cut it down to seven, eight and we would leave shooters twice. The ball hits the floor, we don’t get it. Long rebounds by Portland State twice in the same possession, all those led to baskets and they kept going back up 10. Eventually, you run out of gas and you run out of time.”

(on giving Portland State extra possessions)
“Their pace and pressure forces you to be a patient basketball team and make tough decisions. We were attacking early in areas there weren’t advantages, and that led to 11 turnovers, which gave them way too many possessions. You can’t give your opponent 11 extra possessions in a game where they are hyped up like they were. We put ourselves in a hole that was very difficult to get out of.”

(on Pridgett taking over in the second half)
“I knew if I put the ball in his hands, that was going to pull the big away from the rim, which allowed us to attack. Sayeed is better against bigger guys when he’s moving around. We were trying to force the issue with spacing and movement.”

(on his message to his team Saturday)
“Play harder than your opponent. That’s the only thing I’m going to write on the board. Play harder than them. If we do that, we will come out with a W.”

Looking Ahead
Montana travels to Sacramento State (Saturday at 8 p.m. MT). A win over the Hornets and Montana would clinch at least a share of the Big Sky regular-season championship for the second year in a row and play as the No. 1 seed next week in Boise.