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Montana men's basketball hangs on late to defeat Southern Utah

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 12:32:48-05

CEDAR CITY, Utah -- The Montana Grizzlies have a bit of a trend going in the opening men's basketball games of Big Sky Conference play.

Montana defeated Southern Utah 60-58 on Thursday night in Cedar City, Utah, to improve to 3-0 in conference. But as they did in their first two contests, the Grizzlies saw it go down to the wire in another thriller.

Montana led Southern Utah 60-54 with 32 seconds left after a layup by Sayeed Pridgett. But the Thunderbirds never went away, as Harrison Butler knocked down a pair of free throws and John Knight III added a layup in traffic to make it a two-point game with 14.2 seconds left to play.

Kendal Manuel went to the line on a one-and-one attempt but missed the first free throw, and Southern Utah grabbed the rebound and took a timeout with 7.5 seconds left with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.

Out of the timeout, Knight took the in-bounds pass and tried driving to the basket, but Timmy Falls tied him up for a jump ball that went in favor of the Grizzlies. Manuel was fouled again on the next possession but missed another free throw, and Southern Utah tossed up a prayer from half court at the buzzer that clanked off the rim to give Montana the win.

Jared Samuelson led Montana with 21 points, a new career-high for him as a Grizzly, while Manuel added 17 and Pridgett scored 16. Pridgett also grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists, as did Falls and Josh Vazquez. Only five Grizzlies scored in the game.

Samuelson's previous career-high with Montana was 20 during his redshirt freshman year against Northern Arizona on Feb. 11, 2017.

As a team, Montana shot 41.4 percent (24 for 58) from the field and was 6 for 13 from 3-point range, with Manuel and Samuelson accounting for all of Montana's makes from deep. Southern Utah did out-rebound the Griz 35-28, but UM forced 15 turnovers on the Thunderbirds, which they turned into 16 points. SUU finished 20 for 51 (39.2 percent) from the field and 3 for 13 (23.1 percent) from deep in the game.

Montana (7-7 overall, 3-0 Big Sky Conference) next heads to Northern Colorado in Greeley (8-5, 1-1) on Saturday for its fourth game in eight days. Southern Utah (8-5, 1-1) hosts Montana State (8-6, 2-1) on Saturday. The Bears beat the Bobcats 68-59 on Thursday.