(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Montana returned to its home court on Thursday, and thanks to an impressive showing from all seven rotation players, earned a double-digit win over Idaho State, 80-69.
Whatever was said in the locker room must have resonated. The Grizzlies owned a double-digit lead in the first half, but it had dwindled to just three points by the intermission, 33-30.
Fast forward to the second half.
Montana began the period with 33 points. Within 7 minutes, the Grizzlies were at 52. At that point, Idaho State still hadn’t made a shot from the field, going 0-for-7 with four turnovers.
Senior post player Jamar Akoh led all players with 22 points and 17 rebounds, his third double-double of conference play. He also added a career-high four steals. He wasn’t alone, though. Senior Ahmaad Rorie scored 19 points, but more impressive were his career-most nine assists, in addition to three steals and five boards.
Perhaps equally impressive, though, was the play of Kendal Manuel. The team’s sixth man throughout his first season with the Griz, the Billings native made his first start after Michael Oguine was a scratch due to his injury late last Saturday at Idaho.
Manuel made the most of his extended opportunity, scoring 16 points, including four three-pointers.
The junior had three points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first half, but caught fire in the second. During Montana’s 16-1 run to open the second frame, Manuel had 11 points, including back-to-back treys, plus a steal and an assist.
Idaho State cut the deficit to five a couple of times, but never got closer, and never got within single digits over the final 5 minutes.
Montana did not trail during the game.
The Grizzlies forced 16 turnovers – including 10 steals (second-most on the season) – turning them into 26 points.
After shooting 21.4 percent from deep in the first half (3-of-14), the Grizzlies connected on 70 percent of their second-half three-point attempts (7-of-10). They started the half 7-of-8.
Montana out-rebounded its opponent for the ninth consecutive game.
Akoh reached 20-plus points for the fifth time in 12 games this season. He had a double-double by the 2-minute mark of the first half.
In addition to Montana’s trio of double-figures scorers, Bobby Moorehead had nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep, also collecting six rebounds and blocking two shots; Sayeed Pridgett had eight points, one block and one steal; Donaven Dorsey scored six points; Timmy Falls was held scoreless but had four assists and a steal.
The two teams were tied at 17-17 with 8 minutes left in the first half, before Montana scored 11 of the next 13 points to take a double-digit lead. During the run, the Grizzlies six points from Rorie and three points and four rebounds from Moorehead.
Oguine missed his first game since a broken hand kept him out of the first six games of his sophomore season.
The Grizzlies have won 16 consecutive games over Idaho State.
Montana has won 21 of its past 22 home games dating back to the 2016-17 season.
(on Manuel’s first start and second-half performance)
Kendal’s a good shooter. For him to find out 5 minutes before tip you’re starting is pretty difficult. It’s a lot different coming off the bench. If you’re in that starting lineup we need you to make some shots. I thought he was shooting a little deep in the first half. Once we got his mojo going he started making those deep ones.
(on Akoh’s eight offensive rebounds)
He’s hard to block off because he moves and he’s pretty good at holding his spot.
(on Rorie’s performance facilitating the offense)
“He did a phenomenal job. He managed very well, first half with the zone and then the man. Getting us into the right things, getting the ball moving, getting some extra passes, getting us in the right spots. I thought he scored for us during stretches when we needed him most.”
(on Falls’ strong game)
“He moves the ball, and the other thing that was important was our penetration of the zone. You have to put your penetrators in, and I thought he and Kendal (Manuel) did a really good job early of getting in the paint, then in the second half Ahmaad (Rorie) started getting in there, and when you have three guys punching the paint, you’re hard to contain, and that’s when the threes start to fall.”
Travis DeCuire didn’t want to discuss it earlier this week, instead focusing on the game in front of him. With Thursday now in the past, it’s time to look ahead to a premier showdown against Weber State. The two teams historically have been the top two in the league, and 2019 is no different. The Grizzlies trail the Wildcats by a game, but could take over first place with a win on Saturday. Weber State was picked to finish second in the preseason polls. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Fans are encouraged to wear white.