MISSOULA — Five players scored in double figures as the Montana Grizzlies used a balanced offensive effort to top UC Davis 78-65 at Dahlberg Arena on Sunday evening in front of 2,507 fans.
Dischon Thomas led the way for the Grizzlies with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting as the 6-foot-9 senior paced UM's offense with his mid-range and 3-point shooting. In fact, UM's returning seniors all played a big role in the win, as forward Laolu Oke had 15 points and six boards while guards Aanen Moody and Josh Vazquez added 13 points each and point guard Brandon Whitney chipped in 11 points for Montana.
"Teams are focusing so much on Moody so early. Face guarding him and making it hard to run offense and what's happening is they're opening up the floor and other guys are taking advantage of that spacing," UM head coach Travis DeCuire said. "Until teams play us straight up, we'll just continue to attack the way we are and he'll find ways to get more productive and get cleaner looks, but right now he's playing the right way.
"When you have teams that are scoring four or five guys in double figures, you're going to be hard to stop and we've had that for years. It's just been a couple years since we've had it."
Montana never trailed in the game as the Griz built a quick 8-2 lead in the game and ballooned it to 34-20 after a dunk by Oke and a jumper from Moody. UM went into halftime up 42-32 after a triple from Vazquez, who has battled injuries to start the season and missed UM's first two games, but was highlighted by DeCuire afterwards for his big performance.
"I don't know if we win the game if he doesn't play the way he played for us," DeCuire said. Vazquez added a pair of steals in the game as well.
Davis got back within one in the second half, 44-43, after a bucket from Elijah Pepper. But quickly the Grizzlies regained control and got back up to a double-digit lead as the Aggies had no answer for Thomas, and UM's ability to find multiple contributors down the stretch made it difficult to guard as Montana closed it out.
"We've got a lot of very talented guys on the team," Thomas said. "Just sharing the ball is going to be a huge key for us this year and so we've got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things so every game can be anyone's night.
"I love playing on a team like this because you can't guard everyone. Moody gets a lot of guys open just by running around so he brings a lot of attention but opens up the floor for everybody else."
Freshman Money Williams even connected with Oke two possessions in a row in the final minutes on alley-oops, with Oke slamming the second one home to effectively put the exclamation point on the win.
"I think we have a lot of offensive options, so whoever's night, it can be somebody different every single night, and today, the night was Dischon Thomas," Oke said. "Give him the ball, go to work. That was the gameplan."
He added with a laugh, "Kept it nice and simple."
The Griz finished shooting 50% from the field and 7 for 18 from deep. Montana also forced Davis into 19 turnovers which turned into 24 points for the Griz. This comes after UM had a strong showing this past Friday on the road at Oregon.
"It's huge, I think (Davis) is a 20-win team," DeCuire said. "Going into it, you're not sure. You're coming off of a loss and they had a big win and they've got two explosive offensive players. I think fear is a level of respect and it got our attention and I thought our guys did a good job at responding so I like where we're at right now. I think there's still room for growth. I think we're going to have to beat better teams and I think the next time we see them (Dec. 19 in Davis, California) they will be a better team so we just need to continue to grow and get better."
Davis (2-1) also shot 50% from the field but was just 6 for 20 from 3-point range. Pepper led Davis with 23 points.
The Griz (2-1) are back on Thursday as they host North Dakota State in the second game of their annual tournament, the Basketball Travelers Mike Montgomery Classic.