Big Sky Conference

Griz get past UND, set school record for consecutive road wins


The Griz scrapped past the defending champions en rout to making school history.

Montana allowed three North Dakota field goals in the final 14 minutes of the game and fed Jamar Akoh on the block at will to emerge from Grand Forks with a 72-67 win on Saturday afternoon.

Akoh scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to boost Montana to a win that secured a season sweep of last season’s Big Sky Conference champions. UM has now won a school-record seven straight games on the road, part of an 11-0 start that is the second-best in UM’s 55-year history in the Big Sky.

The Griz are now 18-5 overall with five of their final seven games at home. UM’s last road trip is the mid-February swing to play Eastern Washington and Idaho on February 15 and 17, respectively.

Montana guard Michael Oguine (0)/ By Jason Bacaj

A Geno Crandall jump shot with five minutes, 21 seconds left gave UND a 57-56 lead as the hosts controlled the pace of the game for most of the second half. Montana answered right back as junior Ahmaad Rorie buried a 3-pointer to give Montana the lead for good.

Conner Avants, who finished with 15 points, cut the lead to 62-60 with 2:41 left. UM responded with an 8-2 run that included five points from junior Michael Oguine. Crandall canned a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut the advantage to 70-67. But Rorie hit two free throws to push the lead to five, then Dale Jones’ 3-point try came up short, giving Montana its 13th win in 14 outings after a 5-4 start.

The game had a completely different style than the first matchup between the two teams. In Missoula, UM was content to play at North Dakota’s trademark breakneck pace. The Griz scored 109 in a 30-point win, their biggest point total since 1991.

On Saturday, UND slowed down the game significantly and limited Montana’s star guards effectively. Oguine’s late spurt gave him 12 points less than 48 hours after missing most of the second half in UM’s 88-79 win over Northern Colorado due to banging his knee on the court. Rorie finished 3-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-5 from deep for nine points.

At UNC Thursday, Montana head coach Travis DeCuire knew the Bears would try to limit UM’s guard play. As a result, senior post Fabijan Krslovic scored a season-high 21 points and junior wing Bobby Moorehead added a season-high 18 points. Krslovic was the first player outside of Rorie, Oguine or Akoh to lead the Griz in scoring this season.

Montana forward Jamar Akoh (15)by Brooks Nuanez

On Saturday, Akoh was the one who established position on the block consistently and physically dominated the Fighting Hawks. The 6-foot-8, 255-pounder converted 10-of-12 from the floor. He also notched three steals. Krslovic chipped in 12 points on an afternoon in which Rorie, Oguine and Moorehead finished 8-of-28 from the floor, 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Montana shot 48.2 percent from the field as a team but made just 5-of-18 3-point tries. UND shot 45.3 percent but made just 3-of-17 3-point attempts.

UND junior Cortez Seales scored 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting as North Dakota’s struggles continued. The Fighting Hawks are now 3-8 in league play, 8-15 overall. Avants finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Crandall chipped in 13 points.

Montana returns home to face Portland State Thursday and Sac State Saturday. The Griz are now three consecutive wins away from tying the 2012-2013 Montana squad for the best start to league play and the longest winning streak in UM history. That team won 14 straight to begin Big Sky play and finished 19-1 before hosting and winning the Big Sky Tournament. That season marked UM’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Photos by Brooks Nuanez or noted. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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