Griz basketball: Montana bumps up the intensity, pulls away from Carroll

Junior Jamar Akoh, who posted his first double-double as a Grizzly, collecting 10 boards while adding 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. (GoGriz.com)

The Montana men’s basketball team scored a season-high 86 points in a victory over Carroll College on Sunday evening. The victory improved the Grizzlies’ mark to 4-2 on the young season, including 2-0 at Dahlberg Arena.

Montana’s offense began the game strong, shooting 61 percent from the floor and scoring 46 points in the first half. Carroll’s offense, though, was even more efficient, shooting an impressive 76 percent, including a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range.

The Grizzlies held a four-point lead at the intermission, but knew they had to increase their intensity on both sides of the ball.

“You talk about playing hard and playing smart, and I’m not sure they did that in the first half,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “We had a come-to-Jesus moment in the locker room.”

The message was heard loud and clear, as Montana began the second half on a 12-6 run through the first 5 minutes of the second half to open up a double-digit lead. The Grizzlies would hold that margin for the majority of the second half, including by as many as 13 points.

More impressive, however, was the Grizzlies’ ability to limit Carroll to 37.5 percent shooting – less than half of Carroll’s first-half percentage. The Saints entered the game averaging more than 92 points per game.

Overall, Montana out-shot Carroll – shooting a season-high 56 percent – in addition to holding a large rebounding margin. The Grizzlies out-rebounded the Saints, 33-22, including 14-3 on the offensive glass. The 14 offensive boards resulted in 18 second-chance points. Montana’s defense also forced 20 Saint turnovers, leading to 24 points.

“Once our energy got up and our attention to detail got better, we gave ourselves a chance,” DeCuire said. “We worked hard for two days on our pace and our tempo. We weren’t able to sustain it, but for long stretches we did have it, and I thought that led to a high field-goal percentage.”

For the first time this season, Montana had five players in double figures for scoring. Junior Ahmaad Rorie reached 20 points for the third time this season, increasing his season scoring average. Michael Oguine had 15 points, while Bobby Moorehead and Sayeed Pridgett added 12 apiece.

Plenty of attention, though, was on junior Jamar Akoh, who posted his first double-double as a Grizzly, collecting 10 boards while adding 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

“He’s playing harder and he’s playing with pace,” DeCuire said, noting he struggled to get into a rhythm through the first couple games after redshirting a year ago. “He’s preparing differently and is being more aggressive, and his numbers are starting to show it.”

Montana shot 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) from three-point range, an improvement after a slow start to the season. Moorehead had two treys, including one to open the scoring in the second stanza. He had five points during Montana’s run to pull away early in the second half, also adding two assists, a block and a steal on the evening.

The Grizzlies will now turn their attention to Stanford – the first of three Pac-12 teams Montana will face over the next month. The Cardinal has lost to Big Sky members Eastern Washington and Portland State already this season, but will pose another big test for Montana.

“They’re big and they’ll be tough,” DeCuire said. “We need to play well in order to have a shot, and I expect us to play hard, play smart and play together.”