(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – The defending Big Sky champion Montana men’s basketball team officially started the road back to the title game, playing in front of its first crowd of the 2018-19 season on Tuesday at the annual Maroon and Silver scrimmage.
And it was only fitting that some of the veterans from that championship team would lead the Silver team to a 43-33 win at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
With a squad built of seasoned, championship-caliber talent mixed with six brand new faces, head coach Travis DeCuire split the scrimmage into two sections: a “probables vs. possibles” six-minute period followed by two 12-minute periods of evenly matched teams.
In the end, the cream rose to the top as the “probables” ran out to a 19-2 lead in the first six-minute period, and returners Jamar Akoh and Sayeed Pridgett combined for 24 points to lead the Silver team to a comfortable 10-point win. But with mixed teams came mixed results.
“It was about as sloppy as I expected. The first six minutes you got the bulk of your rotation on the floor, and I think that’s a little more representative of our product. You get shots when you expect shots, you execute on defense a little better,” said DeCuire.
Despite the shuffled decks, DeCuire thinks his Grizzlies got exactly what they needed from the scrimmage: a good measuring stick to figure out where the team stands as the regular season fast approaches.
“Get out here, play in front of some people, throw it up, see if it sticks, and move on,” said DeCuire.
With only a single departure from last year’s starting rotation (Fabijan Krslovic), DeCuire says he has yet to fill that starting role, saying the fifth spot was “wide open” for a host of returners to compete for.
The Big Sky Preseason Player of the Year Ahmaad Rorie looked the part in a leadership role for the Maroon team to lead all scorers with 14 points and four offensive rebounds.
Akoh, however, was a force for the Silver squad with 13 points, a game-high nine rebounds, and three assists.
“When you have someone who commands double teams and scored at such a high percentage, field goal wise. It makes everybody’s job a lot easier, and the shots coming inside out from him are a lot easier to shoot than coming off screens,” said DeCuire. “He’s done a lot to be in probably the best shape he’s ever been in, and we look forward to seeing what he can do.”
Also impressing for the Silver was Pridgett, who totaled 11 points and seven boards. Michael Oguine, a preseason All-Big Sky pick, also put in nine points in 17 minutes of play.
It wasn’t just the vets who impressed for the Griz, however.
Seattle Pacific transfer Tony Miller was a revelation to Griz fans, putting in 10 points and pulling down seven rebounds for the Maroon team.
Oregon State transfer Kendal Manuel had a quiet night offensively with two points, but picked up a steal and pulled down three rebounds as well.
Former Washington Husky Donaven Dorsey played in front of his first crowd in three years and was active around the floor, but was quiet offensively with two points and two rebounds.
Montana now turns its attention its first and only exhibition game of the season, A Nov. 2 meeting with D-III powerhouse Whitworth.
The Griz will then get set to host their first regular season game against Georgia State, an NCAA Tourney participant last season, on Nov. 9 in Dahlberg Arena.