GREELEY, Colo. — The Montana men's basketball team nearly let a double-digit lead slip in the final minute against Northern Colorado on Saturday, but the Grizzlies held on to beat the Bears 79-74.
Montana led by as much as 18 points against the Bears — 58-40 with 8:52 left in the game — as UM was looking to bounce back from an overtime loss to Northern Arizona on Thursday.
But the Bears used a furious rally down the stretch to get within one point, 75-74, after Matt Johnson converted three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 24 seconds remaining in the game. This came after UM led 73-66 with 42 seconds to play.
Brandon Whitney was sent to the line next for UM with 16 seconds left and he missed both attempts, but Josh Bannan grabbed an offensive board and went to the line where he went 1 for 2 to make it 76-74. On the ensuing possession, UM guard Aanen Moody drew a charge on UNC's Daylen Kountz to give UM the ball back, and on the inbounds Moody got the ball, was fouled, and went 2 for 2 at the line to give the Griz some breathing room with 10.8 seconds left.
Kountz's next 3-point attempt was off the mark and Mack Anderson grabbed the rebound to effectively seal the game. He went 1 for 2 at the charity stripe as the Grizzlies (8-8, 2-2 Big Sky) escaped with the win to split their first road Big Sky Conference series of the season.
Bannan led UM with 23 points and seven rebounds while Anderson added 15 points, eight boards and two blocks off of the bench. Lonnell Martin Jr. tallied 13 points and dished five assists and Moody tacked on 11 more points for the Griz who shot the ball at a 49.1% rate from the field and went 8 for 16 from deep. The Grizzlies won the rebounding battle 36 to 27 and had 18 total assists.
Northern Colorado's Dalton Knecht led all players with 32 points on 10-for-16 shooting including a 5-for-9 mark from deep, while Brock Wisne added 11 points and nine rebounds as UNC shot 41.5% from the field and 10 for 27 from 3-point range. The Bears, a team picked second in the preseason Big Sky Conference polls behind Montana State (1st) and ahead of UM (3rd), fell to 5-11 overall and 0-4 to start league play.
The Griz men are back home this coming week with games against Weber State (7-9, 2-1) on Thursday and Idaho State (6-10, 3-0) on Saturday.