By Montana Sports Information
It was déjà vu all over again for the Montana Grizzlies, who once again saw a second-half lead over the Wyoming Cowboys evaporate as the Pokes hit a last second three to pull out an 85-83 win in Laramie.
It was another physical game between the Griz (3-7) and the Cowboys (7-2), as the two teams once again combined for 50 fouls, the same count tallied 26 days ago on the first leg of the home-and-home series in Missoula.
The lead changed 20 times over the course of the neck-and-neck contest, but the only lead change that mattered was when Cowboy junior guard Louis Adams drained a three-pointer with two seconds remaining to cap a seven-point Wyoming comeback and give the Pokes the two-point victory.
The loss snaps Montana’s two-game win streak and gives Wyoming the 2-0 series victory, with both contests decided by two points or less and coming down to a last-gasp shot. The Griz are now 1-4 in games decided by nine points or less.
Heading into the game, UM head coach Travis DeCuire told his troops that if they could hold the Cowboys, who lead the Mountain West Conference in three-pointers made, to less than nine triples on 20 attempts, the Griz would be in it to win it. As it turned out, it was the Cowboy’s tenth three-pointer that was the game winner.
“We had them where we want them. They should have finished the game with seven made threes and 20 attempts, but they finish with 23 attempts, and they make that one at the end,” said DeCuire.
“We fell asleep down the stretch. Fab gets caught at the rim, and Sayeed gets caught at the rim watching the ball and not staying with shooters. All we had to do was stay solid, and we win that game.”
Montana outrebounded the Pokes 42-31, allowing the home team to pull down only four offensive boards, and outscored them 21-2 on second chance points. It was only the second loss for UM this season when outrebounding their opponent.
The Griz had four players score in double figures, led by Walter Wright coming off the bench for a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 from the field and Michael Oguine attracting plenty of attention at the rim, scoring eight of his 14 points off free-throws.
Fabijan Krslovic was once again outstanding in the paint, netting 12 points and pulling down five rebounds before getting into foul trouble. Also scoring in double figures was Jack Lopez, who, as he has often done this season, hit clutch three-pointers when needed, going 3-6 from behind the arc.
After Wyoming opened the game with a three-pointer, Montana would spend the rest of the opening half going back and forth with the Pokes, with the lead changing 12 times.
Montana was finding success attacking the rim and getting dribble penetration into the paint. As a result, Oguine led the Griz at the half with 10 points, as UM was keeping it selective from long-range going 2-of-8 from the arc.
Wyoming, on the other hand, stuck with what had been working for them so far this season, shooting 13 three-pointers, but only connecting on four to shoot 31 percent from three-point land in the opening half, leading to a 37-37 tie at the break.
With 14:21 to play in the second half, Jared Samuelson threw down a big dunk to cap a 9-3 run by the Griz, giving the visitors their biggest lead of the game at seven points.
But the Grizzlies’ momentum would slip away soon after when Wyoming lit up the arena with a series of four showcase dunks and capped the run when Hayden Dalton drained a three-pointer with 4:29 remaining that put the Pokes in front for the first time in over 10 minutes of play, 75-73.
“We had all the momentum and everything,” added DeCuire. “I think we settled a little bit for threes when we didn’t need to. If we had just kept attacking the rim, we would have got layups or fouls. I thought we took too many threes down the stretch.”
After giving the Griz a brief 78-75 lead with just over two minutes to play on a three-pointer, Wright went 1-of-2 from the free throw line a minute later – only his second miss from the charity stripe of the season – to pull the Griz back within one, 79-80.
On the next trip down the court, the Cowboys drained a pair of free-throws to go up 82-79. Jack Lopez then brought the Griz back from the dead, tying the game at 82 with 37 seconds left and forcing a Wyoming timeout to plan the last play of the game.
Whatever was said in the Cowboys huddle worked, as Adams drained the three-pointer on some slick passing from the elbow with less than two clicks on the clock. After a desperation heave from the Griz, the Cowboys left the arena winners of second-straight nail biter over Montana.
Despite the loss, DeCuire remained positive about his team’s growth over the course of a brutal nonconference season.
“Our offense is finally starting to pick up. I think our shot selection is improving, we’re not taking as many threes as we were earlier in the year, we’re attacking the rim, we’re playing good basketball. Now we have to figure out how to finish,” said the third-year head coach.
“We’re just making some mental mistakes we should not be making, but we’re fine. We’re headed in the right direction, and we’ll be OK.”
Montana’s road stretch continues on Tuesday in Eugene, Oregon, when UM takes on its most difficult opponent to date, the No. 24 Oregon Ducks.
“If we play this well offensively I think we’ll have a shot,” added DeCuire. “If we block off and contain penetration like we have the last couple games, we’ll show up and compete and see what happens.”
Tipoff from Eugene is set for 8 p.m. (MT).