MISSOULA — From start to finish, the Montana Grizzlies were in control against the Idaho State Bengals on Saturday evening as UM topped ISU 84-55 in front of 3,543 fans at Dahlberg Arena.
Josh Bannan put together a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Griz and led them in assists with five. Brandon Whitney scored 18 to lead everyone as UM shot 54.9% from the floor and went 13 for 27 from distance.
Aanen Moody added 15 points and Dischon Thomas poured in 13 as the Grizzlies improved to 9-9 overall and 3-3 in Big Sky Conference play.
This win comes after UM dropped a last-second heartbreaker to Weber State on Thursday, and afterwards head coach Travis DeCuire challenged his team to "play the right way for 40 minutes," after inconsistent performances were the storyline behind their first five conference games.
"So the thing that we've been working on is being able to take a lead and handle and keep a lead," Moody said. "So we just emphasized that and with the intention of it, we accomplished it.
"It was just a matter of being prepared mentally and knowing what was on the scout and knowing how we have to execute contrary to how we did on Thursday and being able to learn from it."
On Saturday, the team seemed to take that to heart as they held ISU (6-12, 3-2) to 33.9% shooting to pair with their own offensive outburst. The Grizzlies out-rebounded the Bengals by 18 and had 16 assists as they made the extra pass to find the open look. Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 6:18 left in the first half to make it 27-17 Montana, and the Grizzlies led by double-digits the rest of the way.
"I think we did a great job of responding. I think everyone sort of took it personally, took it to heart, which was important," Bannan said. "We needed to do that and I think it was clear through the board everyone came into this game with great intent and the important thing will be to approach training the same way (Sunday) and then the game on Monday and just continue to do it day in and day out.
Bannan added with a grin, "It'd be nice if we didn't have to bounce back so much. It'd be good if we could just put a couple of wins together and get rolling a little bit and I'm hoping we can do that now. I think this is a team which has a lot of talent and talent doesn't necessarily mean a lot if we don't play hard and play together, and at the moment we're doing that one in every two games. So the biggest thing will be if we can put that together every night, and if we do that, we'll all feel really good."
UM has another quick turnaround as they get set for a rematch with Eastern Washington on Monday. The Eagles (11-7, 5-0) beat Montana 87-80 to open league play back on Dec. 29.
"The biggest thing for us I think is that there's not one guy on our team that's been in the lull they're in right now on a winning team," DeCuire said. "And so, learning how to win together has been very difficult for us, and when we've done it, we just aren't handling success very well, so we just have to figure out how to sustain the same effort and the same concentration."
Now 0-3 on Thursdays and 3-0 on Saturdays in league play, it's about seeing if UM can take that next step with that momentum, and sustain it.
"Back's against the wall, you got more to lose than to gain, but I think that the reality is that we look in the mirror on Friday," DeCuire said. "We need to start looking in the mirror on Wednesday. That's maturity. And it comes from the coaching staff in terms of reminding guys but that's an individual growth in terms of having a good game or having some success as a unit but still going back and really concentrating on the areas you can still get better at and remembering what you did do well and try to do it again."