Montana claims back-to-back Big Sky titles with 86-68 win over Sac State

Before Montana’s game on Saturday even began, the team received a bit of good news. Word trickled in that Northern Colorado had blown a late lead and lost to Northern Arizona in overtime, giving the Grizzlies a chance to win the Big Sky Conference regular-season title outright.

Montana was sure not to waste the new life given to the team, jumping out to a 12-4 lead and beating Sacramento State, 86-68. Montana – which won regular-season and tournament titles in 2017-18 – will look to defend its post as the No. 1 seed at next week’s Big Sky Championships.

The two teams were locked in a tight battle through the first 25 minutes before Montana took over. The 12-0 run started with a Timmy Falls layup and then continued with a Michael Oguine old-fashioned, three-point play, Bobby Moorehead triple, Donaven Dorsey reverse and two Ahmaad Rorie free throws. The Grizzlies held the Hornets without a basket for 6 minutes, 39 seconds (0-for-10 shooting), blocking three shots and turning Sac State over four times.

Falls, a product of nearby Dublin, Calif., had a breakout game while earning the start. He finished with a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, in addition to four steals, five assists and a charge taken. Sayeed Pridgett led all Grizzlies with 17 points, reaching 1,000 career points in the closing minute.

Game Notables

  • With the win, Montana won a second consecutive Big Sky Conference regular-season title. The Grizzlies will play as the No. 1 seed during next week’s Big Sky Championships.
    • Montana has won five Big Sky Conference regular-season titles in the past eight years, finishing runner-up two other times.
    • Montana is the first Big Sky team to win back-to-back regular-season titles since the Grizzlies did it in 2012 and 2013.
    • It marks the 12th time that a Big Sky school has won back-to-back regular-season titles outright. The Grizzlies also did it in 1991 and 1992 and 2012 and 2013.
    • Travis DeCuire is the first coach in Montana history to win three regular-season championships.
  • Junior Sayeed Pridgett became the 34th member of Montana’s 1,000-point scoring club. He is averaging 20.7 points per game over the past 10 contests.
  • For the first time in school history, Montana has three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time. The Grizzlies are one of 11 teams nationally to currently have a trio of 1,000-point scorers. They are one of seven teams to have a trio of players account for 4,000 career points.
  • Sophomore Timmy Falls earned his fourth start of the season. He scored a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, in addition to four steals, five assists and a charge taken.
  • After Sac State shot 61.5 percent in the first half, Montana held the Hornets to 28.1 percent shooting in the second half (9-of-32), including 1-of-14 from three-point range.
  • Montana shot 14-of-16 from the free-throw line (87.5 percent).
  • Northern California natives Falls (Dublin) and Pridgett (Oakland) scored 15 of Montana’s first 20 points. The two finished with 33 total points.
  • Michael Oguine had three steals, moving into third place in school history with 152 career steals. He passed Chris Spoja (1994-97). Oguine also scored 16 points and blocked two shots.
  • Coming off the bench, Donaven Dorsey played valuable minutes down the stretch, scoring five points while recording two steals.
  • Montana scored the game’s first five points and jumped out to a 12-4 lead, forcing a Sac State timeout less than 4 minutes into the game. The Grizzlies made five of their first six shots.
  • Montana led for the first 16 minutes of the game before Sac State took its first lead, 34-33, with under 4 minutes to play in the first half. The Hornets did so by using a 16-8 run.
  • Montana shot a season-best 75.0 percent from the floor in the first half (15-of-20), making 10 consecutive two-point shot attempts at one point.
  • Overall, Montana shot 59.6 percent from the floor, its second-best percentage of the season.
  • The two teams shot a combined 67.4 in the first half, resulting in just 17 total rebounds (six for the Griz). The two teams combined to turn the ball over 21 times.
  • After turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, Montana had just two turnovers over the final 25 minutes.
  • Trailing 51-50, Montana went on a 12-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at the time. The Grizzlies held the Hornets without a point for 6 minutes, 39 seconds (0-for-10 shooting, three blocked shots and four turnovers forced).
  • Montana took a 52-51 lead on a Falls layup to take the lead for good, leading for the final 14:30. The Grizzlies led by as many as 18 points.
  • Montana started a lineup featuring five guards.
  • Montana has now won back-to-back games at Sacramento State, after losing three in a row from 2015-17.
  • Quoting DeCuire
    (on winning his third conference championship, including back-to-back titles)
    “When you have good players and a good staff, good things happen. The thing I’m most excited about with this group is their buy in, their commitment to success even through adversity. They hung in there together. When things didn’t look good, they found a way to perform.”(on the difference from Thursday)
    “We had a hard talk with a couple guys and we made some changes. We dialed in today and accepted what we had, and made the most of it.”(on Falls’ career night)
    “I told Timmy at the airport yesterday, when we were checking, in that we were going to have a meeting with the team. You’re going to probably hear some things you don’t like to hear, and you’re going to have to take it like a man, and if you do that you’ll start tomorrow. He did that. He had a good workout yesterday, and sometimes you’ve got to have those hard conversations.”

    Looking Ahead
    Montana will play as the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big Sky Championships in Boise, Idaho. The Grizzlies’ quarterfinals game will take place at 12 p.m. on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. Following Montana, Northern Colorado will be the No. 2 seed, Eastern Washington will play as the No. 3, Weber State is No. 4 and Portland State is No. 5.