(Story by Griz Communications)
MISSOULA – A winning streak that began 44 days ago at Northern Colorado ended against the same Bears team on Monday night, with Northern Colorado handing Montana its first defeat in 11 games.
Once trailing by 12 points in the second half, Montana closed the gap and tied the game at 72-72, with a made free throw with 15 seconds to play. But Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis was fouled driving to the hoop on the other end. He sank both free throws, giving the visiting Bears a 74-72 victory.
With the result, the Big Sky Conference standings tighten up significantly. A Griz win would have given Montana a three-game lead with four to play. Instead, just one game separates the two teams.
Montana jumped out to an 8-2 lead and led for a good portion of the first half, including by as many as seven points following back-to-back three-pointers from Donaven Dorsey. Despite entering the locker room down three, the Grizzlies built another lead early in the second half.
Montana took a 43-41 lead on a Sayeed Pridgett layup with 15:01 to play. That would be the last time the Grizzlies would be in front, however, as Northern Colorado went on a 9-0 run over the next 2 minutes. During the stretch, the Bears shot 4-for-4 from the floor; Montana was 0-for-4 with three turnovers.
The run ballooned to 18-4, giving the Bears a game-high 12-point lead (59-47) before Montana worked its way back into it. Ahmaad Rorie and Dorsey hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to six. Several moments later, a 9-3 run – with four different players scoring for the Griz – tied the score at 70-70 with 1:54 to play.
Rorie had a team-best 22 points and six assists while Dorsey was on fire from deep, shooting 6-of-7 and tallying a career-high 20 points. Sayeed Pridgett had 17 points and three steals, while Michael Oguine had eight points, 10 rebounds, and four steals.
Montana, though, turned the ball over 15 times – its highest total in 13 games – and was just 9-of-17 from the free-throw line (3-of-10 not including Rorie). Montana was also out-shot and received just two points from its bench.
- Donaven Dorsey set career highs for points (20) and three-pointers made (six). His last one tied the score at 70-70, erasing Montana’s 12-point deficit. Over his past three home games, the senior is averaging 17.7 points per game.
- Ahmaad Rorie reached 20 points for the seventh time this season, tallying a team-best 22.
- For the first time in six games, Sayeed Pridgett was not Montana’s leading scorer. The junior still had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, in addition to four assists, three steals and two blocked shots. He is averaging 21.5 points per game since Feb. 7.
- UNC’s Jordan Davis, the Big Sky’s leading scorer, was held under his season scoring average (23), but the Bears received at least nine points from six different players.
- Led by Michael Oguine’s 10, Montana out-rebounded Northern Colorado 35-29, including 14-9 on the offensive glass.
- Montana had a season-low two bench points. The Bears had 20.
- Montana shot .491 from the floor, but was out-shot for just the third time in Big Sky play (.528).
- Montana’s 15 turnovers were its most since Jan. 3 vs. Sacramento State. The Grizzlies have now turned the ball over more times than their opponent in each of the past four games.
- Montana trailed for 23:37 of game action. During the Grizzlies’ 10-game winning streak, they trailed for just 29:02 total across 400 minutes.
- Montana shot a season-low .529 from the free-throw line (9-for-17). After struggling to begin the year, the Grizzlies were shooting .717 dating back to Dec. 19, making at least two-thirds of their attempts in 14 of 16 games.
- After averaging 18.3 points per game over the past three contests, Kendal Manuel was held to zero points on 0-for-3 shooting.
- Montana was without all-conference forward Jamar Akoh for the fifth consecutive game.
- Even with the loss, Montana has still won 25 of its past 27 home games dating back to February 2017.
(on Northern Colorado’s intensity)
“We knew they were going to bring it. They’re a team that’s very confident. They play good ball and are disciplined. They know their roles and they’re a phenomenal basketball team.”
(on what was working for UNC)
“They were getting layups uncontested and there were quite a few times when they drove and we were there and we didn’t even leave the floor and contest the shot. That comes down to sense of urgency and wanting to win every possession. I just don’t think we played that way today.”
(on Montana overcoming a 12-point deficit and tying the game)
“The offensive sense of urgency (changed) but defensively we still weren’t scrapping the way we needed. We didn’t get rebounds we needed and we just didn’t get stops.”
The loss snaps Montana’s 10-game winning streak dating back to Jan. 12. The Grizzlies have a one-game lead over UNC in the Big Sky standings, with four games to play. Montana’s next two games are at home: Saturday vs. Southern Utah (Senior Night) and Monday vs. Northern Arizona.