(Editor’s note: Story by Griz Communications)
CHENEY, Wash. – A year ago during Montana’s championship-winning season, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 13-0 start and never trailed, leading the league from start to finish. This year will be more challenging for the preseason favorites, as Montana lost for the second consecutive game on Thursday, falling to 3-2 in Big Sky play after a 78-71 loss at Eastern Washington.
Montana led for the majority of the first half, but couldn’t overcome a 15-1 Eastern Washington run over the final 4 minutes of the first period. The Grizzlies got within a single possession eight times in the second half, but each time EWU had an answer.
The Eagles scored on the ensuing possession all eight times Montana cut the score to three points or fewer.
The last time it happened was with under 5 minutes to play when Ahmaad Rorie hit a three-pointer to cut the score to 64-61. Tyler Kidd responded with a jumper from the left side seconds later and EWU extended its lead to as many as 10 in the closing minutes.
Michael Oguine led all players with 18 points, followed by 17 from Rorie. Sayeed Pridgett, though, was the most effective, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, in addition to nine rebounds and three steals.
Montana narrowly out-shot Eastern Washington, but shot just 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from three-point range, compared to 52.9 percent (9-of-17) for the Eagles.
- Montana lost for the second consecutive game.
- The loss snapped Montana’s three-game road winning streak dating back to Dec. 22.
- The Grizzlies out-rebounded their opponent for the sixth consecutive game.
- Montana jumped out to an 11-3 lead – using an 11-0 run. EWU’s first nine offensive possessions featured six turnovers, two missed shots and one make.
- Montana led for 15:32 of the first half, including by as many as 11 points. The Grizzlies’ last lead came with 2:20 remaining in the opening half (29-28).
- Montana’s 10-point deficit was its largest of the conference season.
- Senior Jamar Akoh, who entered the game averaging a double-double through four Big Sky games, was limited to 20 minutes due to foul trouble and ineffectiveness. He had just three shot attempts and two rebounds, and picked up his third and fourth fouls less than 1 minute into the second half.
- Five of Oguine’s seven rebounds were on the offensive glass. The Grizzlies had 12 second-chance points, compared to just two for EWU.
- Montana turned the ball over just three times in the second half.
- Over the past five seasons, Montana and Eastern Washington have been the two winningest programs in the Big Sky Conference.
(on EWU’s big run to close the first half and his team’s mental approach)
“We go on a solid run in the first half, and we’re up double figures. Ahmaad (Rorie), I get him out with 8:34 going into a media (timeout), and we went about 2 and a half minutes without scoring. We were never able to get the lead back, and in all honesty, this is two games in a row where our opponents wanted it more than us. We don’t have a hard time getting up for the teams that have high expectations – there’s a common respect – but I don’t know that we’ve been giving these teams the same respect. You’ve got to have respect for your opponent and give them what you have, every single night no matter who it is and what their record is, and I’m just not sure everybody’s doing that right now.”
(on not being able to overcome the halftime deficit)
“We had two possessions where we went down and we made a call and a guy on the floor didn’t know the play. We took two deep threes, and they go down and score, and that’s kind of an example of what was happening with guys not knowing what we’re doing.”
(on the team’s struggle from three-point range the past two games)
“The Portland State game we got what we wanted. Tonight, a lot of those threes were late-clock desperation shots at the end because we weren’t getting good ball movement. We shot a few of them from way too deep.”
(on foul trouble, and how that changed the approach)
“We had to play small, and it was unfortunate. We were playing like that earlier in the year, so it’s not like it’s something we weren’t accustomed to. We spread the floor and moved faster and got some good shots, and we got better defensively. We cut it to one possession multiple times and we’re one stop away from stealing the game, and we just couldn’t get the stops.”
(on bright spots)
“Mike’s (Oguine’s) aggression, crashing offensive glass and running the floor. Sayeed (Pridgett) on the glass on both ends and his aggression. The problem is, we don’t play well on the same night. It would be nice to have three or four guys playing well together on the same night instead of two.”
(on Saturday’s game at Northern Colorado)
“We better play better than we played tonight. They’re a good defensive team, they’re going to take away threes. Our biggest area of emphasis is defense. The No. 1 key for us is minimize breakdowns on both sides of the ball.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for Montana. The Grizzlies now travel overnight to Greeley, Colo., for a Saturday afternoon game at Northern Colorado. The Bears are a perfect 4-0 and atop the Big Sky standings, and have been off since Monday.