Big Sky Conference

Oguine reaches milestone, Griz reach Big Sky midpoint undefeated


During his three seasons in a Griz uniform, Michael Oguine has come to be known throughout the Big Sky Conference for his relentless defense and highlight dunks.

So it should have come as little surprise when the junior guard combined his trademarks to spur Montana to its ninth straight win and Oguine into a select group of scorers.

With Montana president Seth Bodnar sitting courtside in a season-high crowd of 5,108 and the Grizzlies clutching a small lead against Northern Arizona, Oguine swiped the ball from Karl Harris and bolted toward the rim for a two-handed dunk akin to the slams Montana fans have grown accustom to.

From there it was all downhill for the Griz, who blitzed the Lumberjacks in the opening minutes of the second half on their way to an 82-64 win and a perfect 9-0 Big Sky record.

The Griz harassed NAU into seven turnovers during the early moments of the half, leading to layups and transition threes and all kinds of moments that ignited Montana (16-5 overall) and its season-high crowd.

Montana junior Michael Oguine/ by Jason Bacaj

“That’s what we want,” said Montana coach Travis DeCuire, who improved to 7-0 against NAU. “We forced a ton of turnovers. We minimized uncontested shots and forced guys that they didn’t want to make plays to make plays. When we do that we’re a really good basketball team. I thought we did a better job in the second half with it.”

While Saturday’s win was another reminder of Montana’s ability to turn tenacious defense into quick offense – 22 forced turnovers resulted in 32 points – the night belonged to the player that might embody the team’s defining characteristic better than any other on the roster.

Oguine said he wasn’t aware of his place on Montana’s scoring list until he was told earlier this week in an interview that he needed 38 points to become the 32nd Grizzly to join the 1,000-point scorers club. Saturday morning, Griz play-by-play announcer Riley Corcoran alerted him he needed just 16 more. And about a dozen hours later, after hitting a transition 3-pointer that hit every part of the rim, Oguine joined the illustrious club.

“For Travis to give me this opportunity I’m just forever grateful for him,” said Oguine after a 23-point effort that included a career high seven threes. “Also my teammates for putting me in this position. It’s really special. This is a program with great history and to be part of it, I can’t even describe it. It’s a special feeling.”

From the time first Oguine stepped on the court in Missoula, scoring 12 second-half points in an upset win over Boise State, he has come to exemplify everything DeCuire has built his program around. Lightly recruited, Oguine was a spark from the beginning and has since developed into an honors student, a university representative and one of the conference’s premier talents.

“He’s a guy who is not about himself,” DeCuire said of Oguine. “He’s not watching the scoreboard, he’s not paying attention to how many shots he got. He’s playing the game the way he is being asked to play it to his best ability every night. When a guy does that, they have fortune.”

The night included a little bit of everything Oguine has consistently provided – smothering defense, above the rim highlights, infectious emotion – and a little more. Oguine hit an early three and didn’t stop connecting from the arch until cashing in his seventh triple to extend Montana’s lead to 73-48 with 5:54 to play.

Montana’s Michael Oguine (0) and Timmy Falls (1) celebrate/ by Jason Bacaj

And it was Oguine who gave the Griz the spark they needed with the coast-to-coast dunk late in the first. Montana carried that momentum in the second half, which, fitting to script, Oguine kicked off with a three.

Bobby Moorehead followed suit just before Montana’s aggressive ball screen defense created an avalanche of points.

Before seven minutes expired off the second-half clock, Montana’s seven-point halftime lead ballooned to 28.  Montana was dominant in every fashion, forcing seven NAU turnovers and drilling transition threes and converting easy buckets at the rim.

“We’re playing well. We’re competing at a high level,” DeCuire said. “There is still room for growth, which is a good thing because you don’t want to peak out. … I like where we’re playing right now and we’re going to try to continue to improve.”

NOTES: Jamar Akoh scored 17 points, while Ahmaad Rorie added 12 and Sayeed Pridgett 10. … the Griz hit a season-high 12 3-pointers. … Montana’s bench combined for 23 points.

Photos attributed. All Rights Reserved. 

About Kyle Sample

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