The Montana Grizzlies put together their biggest comeback of the year against Weber State, erasing a 10-point lead with seven minutes to play to earn their first regular season victory in Ogden since 2004, 78-74.
The win over the Wildcats (16-12, 11-6 BSC) puts the Griz (15-15, 10-7 BSC) back in with a shot at a first-round bye at the Big Sky tournament in Reno, Nevada, next week. At 10-7, UM sits a game back of a three-way logjam for third place, with Idaho, Weber and Montana State all tied at 11-6.
Montana compiled its most balanced game of the season against Weber State, with five players scoring in double figures.
Ahmaad Rorie led all scorers with 23 points, while Michael Oguine was a monster on the boards with eight rebounds to go along with 15 points. Sayeed Pridgett also pulled down eight boards to go with his 12 points. Walter Wright and Fabijan Krslovic each added 10 points as well.
Defense was the true difference maker, however, as the Griz held Weber to just 33 percent from behind the arc, allowing the Cats to sink just five three-pointers and preventing them from scoring a single field goal in the final five minutes of the contest.
“Our guys went to war. They fought like they were supposed to fight, and they played like Grizzlies,” said Montana head coach Travis DeCuire, who also earned his first win in Ogden.
“Our guys came in focused, and they fought and tried to win every possession, and they won their fair share.”
Overall, Montana dominated the boards in Ogden, outrebounding the Wildcats 38-28 and 16-6 on the offensive glass, leading to a 21-7 advantage in second-chance points for the Griz.
Sophomore Bobby Moorehead was solid for the Grizzlies on the offensive end with eight points, but as the player tasked with defending Senglin for a large portion of the game, came up big for the Griz defensively as well.
Senglin, the nation’s No. 1 three-point shooter, was held to just one made triple on seven attempts, and 6-of-17 from the field for 22 points.
“He forced him to shoot very tough shots,” said DeCuire of Moorehead. “We knew he was going to shoot the step-back, but we wanted him to shoot it going right, and Bobby did a good job of making sure of that.”
After taking a two-point lead into the locker room at halftime (37-35), Weber State opened the second half by going on a 10-3 run, and the Griz began to show signs of the same second half slump that plagued them at Montana State last week.
But with the Wildcats leading 66-56 at the 6:52 mark, Rorie drained a three-pointer that sparked Montana’s second half comeback run, going on a 13-2 stretch over the next four minutes to tie the game at 69.
Oguine then iced the game for the Griz with 57 seconds to play, draining a clutch three-pointer from the corner off a feed from Rorie in the paint to put UM up 76-72.
“I said we’ve got to win the last seven minutes. I don’t know about winning the game, but we need to outwork them. So let’s attack the rim and keep them from getting to the rim,” added DeCuire.
“We were just outworking them, and we knew if we continued to play with that intensity and to play together, we’d have a shot.”
Montana opened the first half jumping out to an early run, boosted by Krslovic, who took a steal the distance and finished with a dunk in transition. That opened the door for UM to go on a 14-6 run, capped by a Rorie three-pointer after the first six minutes.
Cody John then got the Wildcats going with a pair of jumpers to put the home team on a 10-4 run that made it 18-14 after 10 minutes. During that stretch, Wright kept the Griz afloat with two quick buckets, scored in typical Wright fashion with penetration in the paint and a floating jumper.
Montana’s defense began to tighten up over the next period of play, with Oguine taking a steal and feeding Pridgett in transition for another big slam, keeping Weber honest with hands in passing lanes to give UM a 24-20 lead after 12 minutes.
Oguine continued to dominate the half for the Griz, scoring six straight points by attacking the paint and collecting fouls with just over two minutes remaining in the period.
Wright ensured UM had the lead at the break, hitting a jumper to put the Griz up 37-35, and Oguine and Rorie finished the half with 11 points each.
Montana’s defense held Senglin to just five points in the opening half and scored eight of their 37 points off WSU’s five turnovers. Montana also held Weber to zero offensive rebounds, leading to Montana’s 12 second chance points before the break.
Senglin wouldn’t remain cold for long, though, opening the second half with his first three of the game, and following it up with a layup in the paint to put the Cats up 42-39 after three minutes.
After each team had traded shots over the next five minutes of play, the Wildcats started to break the game open when Kyndhal Hill attacked the paint to put WSU on an 8-2 run and to put the home team up by 10 at 55-45. Meanwhile the Griz went on a 2:30 cold streak, forcing DeCuire into a timeout at the 11-minute mark.
Moorehead came out of the timeout and scored five quick points for the Griz, but Weber had an answer each time to hold onto the 10-point lead over the next two minutes.
At that point, Montana was down by 10, but not out as the Griz stormed back into the game when Rorie sparked the comeback with a three.
With the Grizzlies’ tails up, Pridgett then moved the momentum scale, taking a steal coast-to-coast for a huge dunk that closed the WSU lead to three. Pridgett then tied the game at 68 when he hit a floating jumper, and it was neck and neck over the next four minutes.
Despite Moorehead having to sit the last few minutes after fouling out, Montana’s defense took control of the end of the game, shutting WSU out from the field over the final five minutes.
Oguine then hit the three that broke the Cat’s back and put the Griz up 76-72 with 57 seconds to play.
Wright got some poetic justice too, making a pair of free throws with one second on the clock to seal the win for UM, 78-74.
Montana now turns its attention to Idaho State on Saturday in Pocatello. Pending Saturday’s results around the league, a win over the Bengals on their home court could very well see the Griz through to the second round of the Big Sky tourney.
“I think with it being March; there’s only one thing left to play for. The championship is out; votes are in for all-conference, those types of things, there’s nothing for us individually to accomplish. Now there’s just one thing out there for us to go get. We’re focused on that,” said DeCuire after the win.
“We weren’t too concerned about winning today and Saturday. We were more concerned about playing the best basketball we can play, and playing it together. If we did that, we knew we could get some momentum going into next week. We pull off a win tonight; hopefully it carries into Saturday, and maybe we’ll have one of the longest streaks going into the tournament.”