MISSOULA -- Despite leading by 12 points at halftime, the Montana men's basketball team was forced to hang on late and did just that as the Grizzlies defeated the Idaho State Bengals 77-74 at Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho.
The win means the first-place Griz improve to 7-1 in Big Sky Conference play and 11-8 overall.
Kendal Manuel led the way for Montana with 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including a pair of made 3-pointers. Manuel was also 7 for 7 from the free throw line. Jared Samuelson tallied 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Sayeed Pridgett added 13 points and Timmy Falls finished with 10.
Montana led 41-29 at halftime, but Idaho State began the second half 11 for 14 from the field and raced all the way back to tie it at 54-54 all with 11:26 to play. Montana would respond with a 7-0 run thanks to a layup from Pridgett and a jumper and made three from Manuel.
From there the game was tightly contested, and Mack Anderson gave Montana a 75-69 lead with 56 seconds left to play after a basket plus the foul and free throw. But Idaho State got within 75-73 after Chidi Udengwu stole the ball from Josh Vazquez and Brandon Boyd scored on a layup with 39 seconds to play.
Then, after Tarik Cool went 1 for 2 at the line for the Bengals to make it 75-74, Idaho State got the offensive board but missed the putback layup attempt, and Montana escaped with the win after Vazquez added two more free throws for insurance.
Montana finished the game 16 for 19 from the charity stripe while Idaho State was 25 for 34. The Griz were whistled for 26 fouls while ISU had just 17. Offensively, Montana finished 28 for 58 (48.3 percent) from the field and 5 for 16 from deep. Meanwhile, Idaho State was 23 for 52 (44.2 percent) from the field and 3 for 7 from 3-point range.
This is the third Big Sky game Montana has won by a one-possession margin and fourth game that was won by four points or less.
The win was Montana's 18th straight over Idaho State and head coach Travis DeCuire is now 9-0 against the Bengals. The Griz next take on Weber State (6-13, 2-6) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.