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After slow start, Montana races past Whitworth in late-addition home game

Josh Vazquez
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jan 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-10 10:05:41-05

MISSOULA — It wasn't pretty, but Montana found a way to get it done.

The Grizzlies' men's basketball team overcame a turnover-prone first half and recovered in the second to race past NCAA Division III Whitworth University 84-67 on Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena.

Five Grizzlies scored in double digits led by Josh Vazquez who had 14 points, including three made 3-pointers. Brandon Whitney and Robby Beasley III added 12 points each, while Josh Bannan added 11 and Kyle Owens tallied 10. Vazquez and Cam Parker each added five assists while Derrick Carter-Hollinger grabbed three steals.

In what was originally a weekend off for the Grizzlies, UM (5-6, 1-3 Big Sky) added Whitworth last weekend, the third time Montana has added a late-addition home game. That includes matchups with Yellowstone Christian College and Dickinson State, both of which the Griz also won.

Photos: Montana overcomes slow start, races past Whitworth

"They each provided us something different at a different period of time with a different need," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said of the late-addition games. "I think they've all been beneficial, especially when there's been a shortage of games and you just have to find ways to get enough in. I'm watching TV (Friday night) and there's teams that have only played five or six games. It's going to be hard with these shutdowns for guys to be in rhythm and we're trying to get there.

"Any opportunity you get to play, you have to take advantage of it right now."

"This team, they run a type of offense that some of the other teams in our league run," Vazquez added. "So it kind of gives us a little bit of a look of how we're going to guard them later on."

Montana committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing Whitworth to play step-for-step with the Grizzlies. After leading 34-28 late in the first half, the Pirates tied it 34-34 thanks to three straight Griz turnovers before Montana went into the break up 40-36 after a Vazquez buzzer beater.

Montana cleaned it up in the second half but still finished with 19 turnovers to Whitworth's 16. Overall, the Griz shot 54.7% from the field and 40% from deep while Whitworth was 46.8% and 23.8% respectively.

"We were making it harder on ourselves and I think it takes wind out of your sail when you're playing really good defense and then you give it right back," DeCuire said. "But, a lot of those turnovers came out of the right intent. It's one thing if guys turn the ball over being selfish and trying to get to the basket and get their own shots, it's another thing when guys are trying to share. Our chemistry is not quite where we want it and we're still a few games away I think from getting there because these guys just haven't played very many games together and they're young."

"We have to give every team the same respect," added Eddy Egun, who scored five points. "It doesn't matter what level they're in. That's a good team right there. They played us hard. I just say we have to give everybody the same amount of respect and just go out there and hoop."

Montana also out-rebounded Whitworth 37 to 25 as Michael Steadman led the way with eight boards. Liam Fitzgerald and Miguel Lopez each scored 13 points to lead Whitworth (0-3) in scoring.

Montana welcomes Northern Arizona (3-8, 2-3 Big Sky) next Thursday and Saturday to continue Big Sky Conference play.

"More reps and just playing with each other more," Parker added about the positives from late-addition games. "Getting more games in and seeing how each others feel is. I always think it's good to get another game in and get better with your team no matter who you're playing against."