MISSOULA — For the first time this season, the Montana Grizzlies men's basketball team was on the right side of a last-second shot.
Josh Bannan overcame a rough shooting night to knock down a jumper with 4.9 seconds left in the game to give Montana the lead and ultimately the win as the Griz defeated the Bears 56-54 on Monday morning at Dahlberg Arena.
Michael Steadman led Montana (4-6, 1-3 Big Sky) with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Bannan finished with 11 points and seven boards. Bannan finished the game 5 for 17 from the field including 0 for 3 from deep, but all of that was moot after the freshman from Australia shook off that slump to hit the biggest shot of the game.
"I expected to make it," Bannan said after Monday's game. "I put a lot of work in to take those shots and had a tough game today. I was missing some shots I'd like to be making but just had to be confident. To be honest I probably did get frustrated at times but my teammates put faith in me and supported me through it. They had my back and you just have to keep putting the confidence in the work you put in."
"I think it's building us as a team to be able to fight through adversity and be in this close games and I think it will help us later on down the stretch," Steadman added about the win.
Steadman's performance was much-needed for Montana. The 6-foot-10 post only played 15 minutes in Saturday's loss with six points. His total on Monday tied his Griz career-high in points and was his first double-double of the season.
"That was the biggest thing, is I kind of got away from what was important and what the team needs to be successful," Steadman said. "I had a talk with coach and we figured it out and we were able to come out with the (win)."
Trailing 44-42, Montana's offense came alive behind Steadman, who scored seven points to initiate an 11-2 Griz run, capped by a layup from Brandon Whitney to make it 53-46 Montana with 3:55 left in the game.
But in all-too-familiar fashion this season, Montana saw the lead slip away, and Northern Colorado used an 8-0 run to take a 54-53 lead after a 3-point play from Kur Jockuch with 29 seconds to go.
Montana missed its ensuing shot, which caromed out of bounds and gave Northern Colorado the ball. However, Bodie Hume was called for moving on the baseline when he wasn't allowed, giving the ball back to UM with 6.8 seconds to play.
Whitney found Bannan on the inbound pass, and Bannan knocked down the elbow jumper to give the Griz the lead. UNC in-bounded the ball after, but Whitney and Robby Beasley III trapped Daylen Kountz and Whitney stole the ball and was fouled. He added one free throw for insurance with .8 seconds left in the game.
According to Griz coach Travis DeCuire, Bannan was Montana's third option on the set play, with Josh Vazquez and Steadman serving as the first two.
"While we were (at the press conference) on Saturday, (Bannan) was in the gym shooting," DeCuire said. "That's a sign of someone that wants to be in that situation again so I think he prepared himself for it."
Northern Colorado (5-4, 2-2 Big Sky) was led by Hume who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Hume hit the game winner against UM on Saturday evening. Northern Colorado finished shooting 42% from the field while Montana struggled, shooting just 35.5%. The Griz also were 2 for 10 from deep. Rebounding was similar, with UNC holding a 35 to 34 edge. Montana forced 16 turnovers to its 11 committed.
Montana's four conference games have now been decided by six total points. Montana will welcome Whitworth on Saturday as a late-addition non-conference contest.
Notes: Tipoff for Monday's game was at 9 a.m. According to DeCuire, the reason behind that early start was so Northern Colorado could get back to Greeley to test since teams don't want to test on the road. DeCuire said there is no protocol to get people home if they test positive for COVID-19 on the road. Positive tests can't fly, and someone would have to drive them back, and teams want to avoid that. So UNC wanted to get back in time to test before their home games against Montana State this weekend.