(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA – The Montana Grizzlies looked to be in midseason form Friday night in an exhibition win over Whitworth. The Grizzlies nearly doubled up the Pirates in the second half, cruising to a 90-58 victory inside Dahlberg Arena.
Junior Sayeed Pridgett paced Montana with 17 points and seven rebounds – both team highs – in addition to two steals. As a team, Montana shot 50.9 percent from the floor, including 44.0 percent from three-point range.
Senior Bobby Moorehead led the three-point barrage, connecting on four of Montana’s 11 treys. Moorehead finished with 14 points, and was joined in double figures by Ahmaad Rorie (14), Donaven Dorsey (12) and Michael Oguine (12). Sophomore Timmy Falls, who earned a start, had nine points in addition to a team-high six assists, several of which were either no-look or behind-the-back passes.
As strong as Montana’s offense was, it was the defense that impressed head coach Travis DeCuire. Whitworth was limited to 35.0 percent shooting, including 3-of-20 from beyond the arc. A big part of that was Montana locking down Whitworth’s top shooters.
Kyle Roach, a Division-III first-team All-American who averaged 18.7 points a game a year ago, was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
“I thought we did a phenomenal job guarding the three,” DeCuire said. “Our guys were tuned in on him (Roach). He’s played well here in the past, and for him to only get one three-point shot off is pretty uncharacteristic and speaks to the job we did eliminating opportunities.”
Montana narrowly won the rebounding margin (40 to 38), but DeCuire was disappointed with the 14 offensive rebounds his team gave up.
Whitworth scored on its initial possession, but it was all Montana from there as the Grizzlies raced out to an 18-7 advantage. The Grizzlies led by 11 at the break, 41-30, but that’s when the tide really began to shift.
Coming out of halftime, Montana scored 22 of the first 26 points, and just more than 6 minutes into the second half, the Grizzlies had built a 29-point lead. The lead would balloon to as many as 34 points, as Montana outscored the Pirates 41-18 through the first 15 minutes of the second stanza.
“We were focused and ready to go,” DeCuire said. “That’s one of the better coached teams that we’ll play all year, which is why we schedule this game. They made adjustments on us, and we adjusted to their adjustments.”
With Montana holding a commanding lead DeCuire emptied his bench, and by the end of the game was using five players who had never stepped on a collegiate court before – four true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.
The underclassmen performed, as well. Eddy Egun brought the crowd to its feet with a breakaway one-handed slam, and moments later Mack Anderson stole the ball, passed it off to fellow freshman Freddy Brown III, who dished it back to Anderson for a dunk.
Anderson finished with four points and four rebounds in 12 minutes of action. Egun collected six points and three rebounds.
“He (Egun) was hustling, he went and took a charge, he was helping us make a run and he hadn’t even shot the ball yet,” DeCuire said. “He’s a gamer. When the lights come on he’s ready to go.
“Mack, playing in his first Division-I game, was a little nervous in his first rotation, but then we went back in and looked a lot better. Kelby (Kramer) was aggressive and did some things on the defensive end that clogged up the rim.”
Dorsey, a transfer from Washington who hasn’t played in a true game in more than two and a half years, saw 15 minutes of time on the court, and finished with 12 points – 11 of which came in the second half.
Montana played without all-conference forward Jamar Akoh, who sat out with a minor wrist injury. That led to a smaller initial lineup that included four true guards, plus Moorehead, a guard/forward.
Montana will now have a full week before it officially opens the season, hosting Georgia State in a highly anticipated season opener on Friday, Nov. 9. Like Montana, the Panthers won their league and played in the NCAA tournament a year ago, and are receiving high praise from national publications as one of the top mid-major programs in the country.