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Montana races past Dickinson State for 3rd straight win

Eddy Egun
Posted at 9:20 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 23:55:31-05

MISSOULA -- After coming off their first win over a Pac-12 opponent in a decade, the Montana men's basketball team doubled down at home by defeating Dickinson State 78-51 on Friday evening at Dahlberg Arena.

Michael Steadman scored 18 points while freshman Josh Bannan added 16 points and 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double as the Griz (3-4) won their third straight game in a row.

Photos: Montana Grizzlies defeat Dickinson State

Never really in doubt as Montana grabbed a quick lead and never looked back, UM coach Travis DeCuire said this win -- along with the similar late-addition of last Saturday's Yellowstone Christian College matchup -- was big for a team like Montana that is still getting used to playing together and finding its rhythm with rotations and seeing that translate into success on the court.

"One, it's confidence. It's very easy for a young team to lose confidence when you have expectations and don't have success," DeCuire said. "But the other piece too is, you want to be able to get some leads, so you can look at other guys playing together, other guys in new roles and give them some opportunities before you move forward and lock in on a tight rotation.

"Little rhythm here to get a few in a row. We needed a streak. We picked up this game and the Yellowstone game for a reason and I think we accomplished those things. Biggest thing for us was an opportunity to find more areas of growth and some consistency."

Montana raced out quickly on Friday but Dickinson State -- coached by former Griz standout Derek Selvig -- did get within three points after a dunk and three-point play from John Evans with 6:26 left in the first half. But Montana responded with an 8-0 run and never looked back. Montana finished shooting 55 percent (33 for 60) from the field though just 15.4 percent (2 for 13) from deep. The Griz out-rebounded DSU 46 to 18.

Friday's contest came two days after the Griz beat the Washington Huskies in Seattle, snapping a 14-game skid against Pac-12 opponents. After some tough losses to start the 2020-21 campaign, Wednesday's win showed what this younger Grizzly team is capable of.

Still, after that emotional win, UM had a quick turnaround and couldn't look past Dickinson State.

"It was more of like a mental thing," UM sophomore guard Josh Vazquez said. "A lot of guys were drained, especially coming off of a big win like that. Although (DSU) is a lower-level school, we still have to come out with the energy that we had against Washington. Travis emphasized that that we need to have our energy level high regardless of who we're playing with. That's just going to lead to us playing better basketball and getting wins."

"We obviously did have a rough start but bringing together a lot of new guys, it's tough," Bannan added. "We didn't really have a lot of preparation some teams would like. Any high-major win is awesome and it was great to get that (Washington) win. I think it's a bit indicative of where this team's at and I think we're coming together better and we're going to keep moving forward."

Bryce Knox led Dickinson State with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. The Blue Hawks finished the game shooting at a 36.5 percent clip and went 5 for 17 from deep.

Montana's final scheduled non-conference game is set for next Tuesday at Arizona. After that, UM will have a long layoff before continuing conference play on Jan. 2 and 4 at home against Northern Colorado.

Notes: Friday marked the college debuts of freshmen Robby Beasley III and Hunter Clarke for UM. Beasley, a highly touted recruit who picked UM over Nevada, has dealt with an injury early on but still played 11 minutes, going 2 for 6 from the field including a 3-pointer to finish with five points. Clarke, who like Bannan hails from Australia, was a late arrival to UM due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He played five minutes, missing his lone attempt from deep while grabbing one rebound.