CollegeMontana Grizzlies


Montana men withstand Portland State to advance to semifinals

Montana men's basketball
Posted at 11:44 PM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-12 10:38:44-04

BOISE, Idaho — When Portland State and Montana played back on Jan. 25, the Vikings caught the Grizzlies off guard with a full-court pressure defense and won the game 72-46.

The Grizzlies handled the pressure much better Monday inside Idaho Central Arena, securing an 87-81 win over Portland State in a quarterfinal game of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournament.

"I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of attention to detail and executing the scout. One of the things we talked about was 40 minutes of aggression, 40 minutes of transition, really without stops," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said, noting the Grizzlies' attack mode aimed at punishing Portland State's pressure.

There were still plenty of tense moments, as Portland State's hard-nosed, physical defense disrupted Montana's rhythm during stretches, especially in the first half. But the Griz — led by the veteran backcourt of Brandon Whitney, Josh Vazquez and Aanen Moody — kept their composure, limited themselves to only 11 turnovers and capitalized in transition with 10 fast-break points.

Montana led 35-29 after a disjointed first half, only to see the Vikings quickly erase the deficit to tie the game at 44.

But Vazquez, Moody, Whitney and Giordan Williams had their own answer. Vazquez knocked down a difficult 3-pointer to give the lead back to the Griz. Then, Moody took over. He scored on an acrobatic lay-up, drew a foul and made the and-one free throw, and then hit his own 3 to cap a 9-0 Griz burst.

PSU's KJ Allen stopped the run with a bucket, but Moody answered with another basket. Williams added one more, and the Griz were suddenly up 57-46. Williams' impact, though, went beyond the scoring column. With Montana battling foul trouble and losing the rebounding battle, the 6-foot-5 guard played big.

"Giordan Williams was big time for us, probably saved our bacon in the second half with seven rebounds and his defensive physicality," DeCuire said.

"And then our execution on the offensive side (was the difference)," DeCuire added. "They were really aggressive in terms of fighting touches, so we were able to get some backdoors and layups. I thought the guys did a phenomenal job of spreading them out and executing against the pressure."

Though the Vikings were relentless in fighting to the final buzzer, they wouldn't get closer than four the rest of the way.

Moody finished with 27 points, 18 of which came in the second half as Montana scored 52 points and shot a blistering 66.7% over the final 20 minutes. Moody was 6-of-7 shooting in the second half, and Vazquez made 3 of 4 field goals on his way to 10 second-half points. He had 15 for the game.

Whitney scored 18 points, making 7 of 8 free throws, and Williams had eight points and seven rebounds.

Allen had a monster double-double for the Vikings, scoring 28 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. As a team, PSU had 16 offensive rebounds.

With the win, third-seeded Montana is back into the semifinals where it will meet No. 8 seed Idaho State, which upset second-seeded Northern Colorado on Sunday.

"(Idaho State) played well against us (during the regular season)," DeCuire said. "We had some spurts to pull away, so we've got to give them the same respect that they've given us, knowing we've got to play better basketball than we played a week ago to beat them.

The Griz and Bengals are scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. Tuesday, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.