Montana's bid to upset a second straight Pac-12 Conference men's basketball opponent fell just short on Tuesday evening as the Grizzlies fell to the Arizona Wildcats 70-64 at McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
After topping Washington last Wednesday, Montana led Arizona for more than 23 minutes from midway through the first half before the Wildcats retook the lead a number of times in the second half. Turnovers plagued Montana in the second half, though, as Arizona mounted its comeback and held UM off late.
In just his second game of the season, freshman Robby Beasley III led Montana with 17 points off of the bench, while Kyle Owens added 13 and Josh Vazquez finished with 10. Josh Bannan also led UM with nine rebounds and as a team UM shot 43.5 percent (20 for 46 ) from the field and 4 for 10 from deep.
Montana took a 36-29 lead into halftime as Beasley scored 10 of his points off of the bench to kick-start Montana's offense.
Arizona finished 8 for 16 from the free throw line in the first half while Montana went 9 for 9. The Griz also shot at a 52.2 percent clip from the field in the opening half while holding UA to a 33.3 percent mark as the Griz built the seven-point lead at the break.
In the second half, things got more complicated for the Griz. Arizona's defense clamped down and forced Montana into 11 second-half turnovers while holding the Griz to just 8 for 23 (34.8 percent) from the field. After not leading since the 13:18 mark of the first half, Arizona regained a 45-44 advantage with 11:32 left in the game. After trading leads again, Arizona grabbed the lead for good with 8:34 left in the contest.
Arizona won the rebounding battle 35 to 33, a close margin considering UM center Michael Steadman fouled out for the Griz with 6:27 left to play, leaving Montana with a difficult size disadvantage against the Wildcats. However, turnovers proved to be the difference as Montana committed 19 total turnovers to Arizona's eight. The Wildcats turned those Griz mistakes into 14 points.
Montana finished 20 for 22 from the free throw line while Arizona ended the night 19 for 34. James Akinjo led UA with 18 points while Jordan Brown tallied 15 and Azuolas Tubelis finished with eight points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (6-1).
Per game contracts obtained by MTN Sports, Arizona paid Montana $70,000 in guaranteed-game money to play Tuesday's contest, its final scheduled non-conference tilt. UM (3-5 overall, 0-2 Big Sky) has a long layoff before returning to action on Jan. 2 and 4 with home games against Northern Colorado.