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Aanen Moody sizzles as Montana Grizzlies blast rival Montana State

Cat-Griz men's basketball
Posted at 9:09 PM, Feb 17, 2024

MISSOULA — Aanen Moody blew a kiss to the near-capacity Dahlberg Arena crowd after making a 3-pointer in the first half of the Montana men's basketball team's game against rival Montana State Saturday.

He blew another one moments later after he threaded the needle on an assist to Dischon Thomas for a dunk.

By the conclusion of the Grizzlies' 88-69 win over the Bobcats, the Montana faithful were showering Moody and his Griz teammates with adulation. Moody electrified the crowd with 29 points, knocking down five 3-pointers as the Griz hit 13 from the arc as a team. Josh Vazquez (four), Thomas (three) and Jaxon Nap (one) also made 3s.

PHOTOS: MONTANA GRIZZLIES ROLL PAST MONTANA STATE

"They're always fun when the crowd comes with high energy. It was an emotional win for us," said Montana coach Travis DeCuire. "We talked about being emotionally engaged but also be stable at the same time because we knew there would be some lulls in the game.

"I thought this was probably as well as we've played in this matchup in a long time, if not in all of our games, in terms of getting off to a good start and then sustaining it for 40 minutes. I thought the guys were locked in."

The teams played an entertaining back-and-forth first 14 minutes, with Montana State's Sam Lecholat making his own 3-pointer to make the score 27-26 in favor of Montana.

The Griz blitzed the Bobcats to close the half, though, getting a 3 and layup from Thomas, a 3 from Vazquez, a jumper from Moody and a buzzer-beating 3 from Nap that sent UM and its fans into a frenzy. The 13-4 run at the end of the half gave Montana a 40-30 lead at halftime.

"I would describe it as the best in the country, you can't beat that," Moody said of the crowd at Dahlberg Arena. "Not only was the amount of people surprising, but the way that everybody showed up and had a voice and played a part in the win, it was amazing."

Moody and Co. took complete control out of the break. Here was Montana's scoring from the floor through the first 10 minutes: Moody 3, Moody 3, Vazquez 3, Thomas 3, Thomas 3, Vazquez 3, Moody 3. The Griz scored 25 points — building their lead to as large as 65-47 — before making a two-point field goal in the half.

Eddie Turner III and Brandon Walker did their best to keep Montana State in it, cutting the deficit to 13 points on multiple occasions, but Montana's sizzling offense was too much. Moody, who surpassed 1,500 career points early in the first half, finished with his game-high 29 on 9-of-17 shooting, including a 5 of 9 mark from 3-point range.

Thomas had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Vazquez added 15 points. Laolu Oke also had a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, including eight offensive boards.

Montana won the rebounding battle 39-26. As a team, the Griz had 15 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points.

"When you have Dischon and (Oke) crash the offensive glass the way they did and throwing it back out, that's a hard shot to keep someone from getting because everyone's in the paint rebounding," DeCuire said. "So, some of (the 3-pointers) came from that, some of it our transition.

"There were some shots that were designed set plays or in transition, something we look for. But a lot of it was just from scrap."

Turner led Montana State with 18 points, and Walker had 13. Robert Ford III, who had 30 points in the first Cat-Griz game of the season, was limited to just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting Saturday.

Montana improved to 17-9 overall and 8-5 in Big Sky Conference play. The Griz continue their home stand next week with home games against Sacramento State on Feb. 22 and Portland State on Feb. 24.

Montana State (11-15 overall, 6-7 Big Sky) are back in Bozeman to play Portland State on Feb. 22 and Sac State on Feb. 24.

"These are the type of games and rivalries you dream about playing in and coaching in as a kid," Montana State coach Matt Logie said. "Obviously we'd like to be on the other side of things, but it's good for us to go through these adversities and see what we're made of and keep our guys connected like they have been all year.

"This is really a group that has been focused on playing our best basketball at the end of the year. ... Growth isn't always pretty and it isn't always in a straight line, but we've had some really high highs and we know what we're capable of, and hopefully we can show that here in the next month."