A few observations from Montana’s opening 79-73 win over Sacramento State Thursday in the Big Sky quarterfinals.
Montana point guard Ahmaad Rorie struggled in the first half, making just one of his six field goal attempts and scoring three points. He did have three assists as the Grizzlies moved the ball around well, but it was still a tough performance for the first-team all-conference senior. In the second half, though, as the pace of the game slowed down and Sac State crept closer, rorie started passing less and shooting more. He hit midrange jumpers on back-to-back possessions midway through the half to push an eight-point Montana lead back to 12. Less than two minutes later, after a quick burst from Marcus Graves had the Griz lead back down to 6, it was Rorie stepping up again, getting to the middle of Sac State’s zone to knock in another short jumper. The Hornets didn’t get that close again until garbage time. All told, Rorie scored 14 points in the second half to finish with 17 for the game.
The big names for Montana put up the biggest statlines — Michael Oguine had 19, Rorie 17 and Sayeed Pridgett 16 — but the names around the margins made big plays too as the Griz showed off their depth. Kendal Manuel had 11 points, including a huge 3 when Sac State cut the lead to six early in the second half, and added a team-high seven assists. Mack Anderson came off the bench after Pridgett and Donaven Dorsey both picked up two easy fouls and made 3-of-4 field goal attempts for six points.
“Personally, I was just trying to go out there and give them everything I could,” Anderson said. “Bring some energy like I’ve been trying to do all season. We did a good job of that tonight.”
Bobby Moorehead hit just one 3-pointer, but led the team in rebounds with nine, most of them tough boards in traffic, and kept the ball moving on the perimeter. And Timmy Falls started and scored just two points, but his defensive energy sped up Sac State’s offense and set the tone for Montana on defense.
“Speed kills,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “We needed to be starting games being more aggressive. So, one of the best ways to do that is to get speed on the floor. … The other thing is, Timmy is really good on the backside of rotations. We were making a lot of rotations, so when you get your fastest guy that’s got great instincts on the backside, then your defense is going to be a little better to start.”
Montana might have dodged a little bit of a bullet, getting the win in a game in which Sac State shot very well. A day after going 12-of-20 (60 percent) from deep and beating Northern Arizona, the Hornets were 11-for-25 (44 percent) against Montana. Early, Montana’s quick defensive rotations frustrated Sac State, which shot just 3-of-9 from 3 in the first half, and might have been even worse except for a couple tough makes by Graves. That changed after halftime, as the Hornets made four of their first five 3-point attempts in the second half, which was the biggest factor in helping them charge back into the game. For a Sac State team that made the fewest 3s per game in the conference at just 5.5, it was an encouraging two games.
“I think we’ve been an underrated shooting team the whole season,” said Bryce Fowler, who was 4-for-5 from deep against Montana. “I think we just got hot at the right time. We’ve had some games where we’ve shot the ball really well, it was just inconsistent. But these last two games showed that we’re a really underrated shooting team.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.