Almost exactly a decade to the day that it last happened, the Montana men's basketball team has defeated a Pac-12 opponent.
The Grizzlies (2-4) topped the Washington Huskies 66-58 late Wednesday evening at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.
Five Griz players scored in double figures led by Kyle Owens with 13 points while Josh Bannan had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Josh Vazquez also had 12 points while Michael Steadman added 11 and Brandon Whitney tallied 10.
Montana finished the game 20 for 54 (37%) from the field and 4 for 13 (30.8%) from deep. The Grizzlies were sharp at the free throw line, going 22 for 27.
"It's hard to explain," Montana coach Travis DeCuire told Montana Voice of the Griz Riley Corcoran in the post-game radio show with a big laugh. "I go into the locker and I don't even really have a post-game speech. So many guys did things that we needed to win."
Montana took control early, grabbing a double-digit lead after a Steadman jumper to make it 18-8 with 10:28 left in the first half. Montana ultimately went into the break up 33-21. The Griz utilized their free throw opportunities in the first half, knocking down 11 of 12 tries while Washington made just 1 of 7.
In the second half, the Huskies mounted a slow but steady comeback, as fouls began hurting the Grizzlies again. The teams traded blows until the Huskies eventually took a 51-50 lead with 4:36 left to play, their first since leading 5-4 early in the game.
But trailing 53-51 with 3:50 to go, Montana's offense woke up again. Like he did against Southern Utah twice, Vazquez buried a clutch 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a one-point lead, and followed up with a pair of free throws. With 2:16 to go, Whitney, a true freshman, added a triple of his own followed by another jumper from Vazquez.
Just like that, a 10-0 run for Montana had them up eight with 1:43 left to play. Washington got within 63-58 with 33 seconds left, but free throws from Bannan and Cam Parker iced the game for the Griz.
"The defense got those (3-pointers) for us, but Whitney and Vazquez were ready, they stepped up," DeCuire said. "(Assistant coaches Chris) Cobb, (Jay) Flores and Zach (Payne) were yelling at both of those guys, 'Get your feet ready, be ready to bang one,' and they both did that."
DeCuire heaped a lot of praise on his players for their performance in what's been a challenging year to start so far with a pair of tough losses to Southern Utah. In particular, he highlighted the play of Whitney, who was tasked with guarding UW's leading scorer and former McDonald's All-American Quade Green.
"Before the game, I was talking to the staff and I said for a freshman we're asking a lot of Brandon Whitney. He's had to defend really good guards up to this point," DeCuire said. "He holds him to zero points in the first half and that sets the tone and that's team effort, guys were in the right places doing the things they need to do, and we rebounded the ball well, but Brandon Whitney stepped up big time defensively for us and gave us a chance on the defensive end.
"That was one heck of a team effort and sometimes a game that looks like you might have a chance to pull away gets ugly and you got to be tough enough to finish it and that was the grit that's been missing and we were wondering if we had it. Now we know it's there, and now it's up to us to sustain it."
Washington edged Montana in rebounding 35 to 34 with the teams tied with 25 defensive rebounds each. However, Montana forced 16 turnovers to its 12.
Washington finished 24 for 57 (42.1%) from the field and 2 for 12 (16.7%) from deep. The Huskies struggled from the line, going 8 for 19 (42.1%). Nate Roberts had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead UW while Nate Pryor added 13 points as well. After not scoring in the first half, Green finished with four points on 1-for-11 shooting.
For the Griz, it ended a long drought since their last win over a Pac-12 opponent. Montana's last such win was over Oregon State on Dec. 15, 2010, with a win over UCLA coming just 10 days before that.
The game marks DeCuire's first win over a Pac-12 opponent too as a head coach of his alma mater. In DeCuire's seventh season at the helm, Montana was 0-12 against Pac-12 teams prior to Wednesday.
Montana was previously 0-3 against Washington under DeCuire. In poetic fashion, the last time Montana beat Washington was when DeCuire, a Seattle native, was a senior for UM's basketball team in 1994.
"I've had a couple rough nights these last couple years," DeCuire said about getting the. "At Stanford (last year), here, especially the one here (three) years ago. That was our game and we were relying on some calls down the stretch instead of just making plays. Those games I didn't sleep much after them because I felt I could've been better. We should've won those games. So give me one more shot where we're in striking distance down the stretch and we'll be solid. Our bench was good tonight and our staff was great. We were an efficient basketball team tonight and that's what you have to be to win these type of games.
"It's always huge. I've got so many friends and family here and the 24-hour lead-up of text messages of support were huge. When you've got guys that you've known since you were single-digits in age texting you saying, 'This win's yours, go get it,' it's huge to go get it."
Per the game contract obtained by MTN Sports, Washington (1-5) paid Montana $50,000 in guaranteed-game money for the Griz to play the Huskies.
Notes: About 30 minutes prior to Wednesday's tip-off, MTN Sports confirmed that UM grad transfer Cameron Satterwhite had left the team. Satterwhite played in just two games for Montana after joining the Griz from Northern Arizona. ... Montana will host Dickinson State -- which is coached by former Griz great Derek Selvig -- on Friday in Missoula.