(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Good teams find ways to win, and that’s what the Montana Grizzlies did on Monday night, defeating North Dakota State, 60-51, inside Dahlberg Arena. The win guaranteed Montana a winning non-conference record for the second season in a row, and just the sixth time in the past two decades.
The Grizzlies (6-3) led for more than 27 minutes against the Bison (4-8), but found themselves trailing at the half after scoring just 19 points. That changed early in the second period when Montana scored on three consecutive possessions, totaling eight points in just 72 seconds, to regain the lead, 29-27.
The 8-0 run extended to 22-5 as Montana opened up a double-digit lead over the visitors. The Grizzlies held the lead for the remainder of the game, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor in the second half. A big reason for the second-half success was Montana’s ability to hit from deep. The Grizzlies went 1-for-8 from three-point range in the first half before making five of their first six attempts in the second.
Montana scored just 21 points through the first 23 minutes of action before scoring 22 points over the next 6 minutes. Montana went 7-of-8 from the floor during that stretch, knocking down five treys, in addition to blocking a pair of shots and holding NDSU to 2-of-9 shooting with four turnovers.
Playing for the second consecutive game, Jamar Akoh scored a team-high 17 points, in addition to a team-most eight rebounds and three assists. Bobby Moorehead was also clutch, scoring 13 points, including three three-pointers – two during Montana’s second-half run.
• With two games remaining, Montana is guaranteed a winning non-conference record for just the sixth time since the turn of the century. The other five times it has happened, Montana has advanced to the NCAA tournament on four occasions and the CBI once.
• Montana turned the ball over a season-low seven times, compared to 14 for NDSU. The Grizzlies scored 18 points off of turnovers, compared to just three for the Bison.
• Montana led for the final 15:27 of the contests, including by as many as 11 points.
• Akoh played a season-high 34 minutes. In three games this season, the senior is averaging 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
• Akoh scored 10 points in the first half, and 12 of Montana’s first 21 points overall.
• Moorehead had his best shooting night of the season, going 4-of-7 overall and 3-of-6 from deep. One of his misses was a near-half-court heave as the shot-clock was expiring. He has now scored in double figures in three of the past five games.
• While Montana has played a deeper lineup this season, just six players played more than 8 minutes on Monday.
• Montana’s 19 first-half points were its fewest since Jan. 24, 2015. On that night, the Grizzlies also overcame a 23-19 halftime deficit to beat Southern Utah, 58-56.
• The Grizzlies held the Bison to just six points through the first 10 minutes. The Bison were 3-of-12 shooting with three turnovers to begin the game.
• Michael Oguine’s three-pointer with 2:23 remaining extended his streak of consecutive games scored in to 62.
• Montana’s 19-game home winning streak is the fourth-longest active streak in all of NCAA Division-I basketball.
• Montana improved to 5-0 all-time vs. NDSU in Missoula.
(on the victory over NDSU)
“We won and feel good about it. Every day is an opportunity, and today was an opportunity to extend our home winning streak and finish the non-conference undefeated at home. The biggest thing was getting a W in the column. It never feels good to play like we did last week and then wait 10 days after an L. It felt good to get off the schneid.”
(on being guaranteed of a winning non-conference record)
“I think it means more to us than it did in the past because of the way we schedule. Former coaches told me I was crazy for scheduling as difficult as we have. For us to play a tougher schedule these past five years than probably ever in the history of this program, and have two of those go in the positive, it feels good.”
(on what changed during the team’s 22-5 run)
“Two things that had been very difficult to do. One is energy. We brought energy defensively; we got more aggressive. We stopped trapping the ball screens because of the offense they were running, and we brought back our aggression. The biggest thing is we moved the ball; the ball got from one side to the other, and we had pace. Once we got it back we made our run.”
(on the impact of having Akoh back in the lineup)
“When you practice 30 times with a guy and then he disappears, everything you worked on doesn’t work anymore. We’ve been working on playing games with one or two days of prep and trying to perform offensively or defensively without our anchor, and that’s very difficult to do without your anchor.”
(on Moorehead’s three three-pointers)
“There was a shot that we knew was going to be there, which was the back-side corner, so I put Timmy (Falls) in because I knew he would make that pass. Sure enough, he came off that screen, zipped it over there and Bob hits the three. He’s willing to get the ball in tough places, and it led to the run.”
(on the team’s defensive performance, holding the last three opponents to an average of 55.0 points)
“We’re playing veterans in the middle. When guys know what we’re doing on the ball screen and then know where their man is to get back – which is very difficult to do – it leads to good things.”
Montana’s busy week now shifts to the road. The Grizzlies will travel to Tucson, Ariz., on Tuesday for a tilt vs. the Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-12 on Wednesday evening (6:30 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network). Montana then will face South Dakota State on Saturday. The Jackrabbits own the nation’s longest home winning streak.