CollegeMontana Grizzlies


For 2nd time in 3 days, Southern Utah tops Montana on last-second free throw

Michael Steadman
Posted at 2:04 PM, Dec 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-06 09:58:44-05

Déjà vu is sometimes an overused sports term, but it is the only way to describe what happened between Montana and Southern Utah on the opening weekend of Big Sky Conference men's basketball play.

Nick Fleming made 1 for 2 free throws with 1.3 seconds left in the game as the Thunderbirds topped the Grizzlies 75-74 on Saturday afternoon in Cedar City, Utah, to complete the weekend sweep of Montana.

Fleming's game winner came moments after Josh Vazquez knocked down a 3-point basket with 9.7 seconds left to tie the game. Vazquez did the same thing on Thursday against the Thunderbirds before SUU came down the other way to win 64-63 on a free throw from John Knight III.

After Vazquez's 3, SUU came down the other way and missed a 3-point try of its own, but Fleming grabbed the offensive board and was fouled on the put-back attempt to send him to the line.

The win improves Southern Utah to 3-1 overall and 2-0 to start Big Sky play. Meanwhile, UM falls to 0-3 and 0-2 in league.

Saturday's game was akin to Thursday's in terms of lost leads. Southern Utah began the game hot, taking a 23-14 lead and 31-23 advantage by the 5:33 mark in the first half.

From there, Montana seemingly took complete control of the game, going on a 23-2 run that extended into the second half as the Griz led 46-33 after a basket from Kyle Owens.

A 12-0 run from Southern Utah followed as the Thunderbirds got within one, but again Montana responded, and a 3-pointer from Josh Bannan made it 56-46 Griz with 10:55 to play.

Later, holding a 67-58 lead, Southern Utah began to chip away for good, and a long jumper from Dre Marin gave SUU its first lead of the second half, 72-71, with 40 seconds to play.

In a sequence of events nearly identical to Thursday, two more free throws from Marin gave the Thunderbirds a three-point lead, but on the following possession, Montana drew up an inbounds play that freed up Vazquez for the game-tying 3-pointer.

Tevian Jones' 3-point attempt failed for SUU, but Fleming was there for the rebound and ultimately, the game-winning free throw.

Owens finished 9 for 14 from the field and 2 for 3 from deep for 21 points for Montana in his first start of the year. Sacred Heart transfer Cam Parker went 7 for 9 from the field and 3 for 3 from deep and scored 19 points off of the bench while also dishing six assists. Michael Steadman added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Griz, who as a team shot 27 for 53 (50.9 percent) from the field and 8 for 14 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range. Montana also went 12 for 15 from the free throw line.

After being called for a combined 47 fouls on Thursday, 28 of which were on Montana, the Griz and Thunderbirds combined for just 29 fouls with the same officiating crew on Saturday.

Marin and Jones each finished with 19 points for Southern Utah while Maizen Fausett added 16 points and nine rebounds. SUU shot 26 for 60 (43.3 percent) from the field and 10 for 33 (30.3 percent) from deep. The Thunderbirds also went 13 for 16 from the line.

Southern Utah once again out-rebounded Montana on Saturday with a 34 to 28 advantage. The Thunderbirds grabbed 10 offensive rebounds to UM's three, which they turned into 15 second-chance points.

Notes: Montana played with an eight-man rotation on Saturday, with all eight players who entered the game racking up 10 or more minutes on the court. ... Grad transfer Cam Satterwhite and sophomore Derrick Carter-Hollinger, both of whom started on Thursday, did not suit up for UM but were in street clothes on the team bench. ... Montana's next scheduled game is on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at Georgia, the first of its three remaining non-conference games.