GRIZ HOOPS NOTEBOOK: Strategy, Oguine dunk push Griz past Sac State


The Montana Grizzlies won for the 13th straight time on Saturday, surviving Sacramento State in overtime to post their 20th win this season overall.

Here are some extra impressions from Andrew Houghton, who covered Saturday’s action for Skyline Sports.

DEFENSIVE DEEP DIVE: Whenever Sac State starting center Josh Patton was in the game, Montana’s half-court defense handled screening actions by aggressively trapping the ball handler, letting Patton roll free to the top of the key and trying to funnel the ball into his hands. This took the ball away from ball handlers like forward Justin Strings, who led the Hornets with 21 points, and forced Patton to try to make plays in a 4-on-3 situation.

Sac State center Josh Patton, pictured here last year/ by Brooks Nuanez

“That’s what we always do if a big isn’t a perimeter player and isn’t skilled away from the basket,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “The thinking is, we’ll roll the dice with him quarterbacking. … Maybe we have one less defender on the floor, but typically, he isn’t very good at throwing the ball because he hasn’t done it very much.”

The stats seemed to back DeCuire’s logic. Patton finished with no assists and three turnovers. He did have 14 points and eight rebounds, but DeCuire actually thought that the Hornets became harder to defend when he left the floor with five fouls.

“In all honesty, I thought they were tougher to guard when they got smaller, because it’s four shooters on the floor as opposed to two or three,” DeCuire said. “It put pressure on our defense when they spread like that, but it also made it easier for us to get the ball inside, especially to our second post, because he had a guard on him.”

HIGHLIGHT REEL: To this reporter sitting courtside, Michael Oguine appeared out of nowhere on his jaw-dropping put-back dunk in overtime, teleporting from out of the picture to above the rim in an instant. The video replay, on which he can be seen crashing from the 3-point line, building up speed and momentum in just a few steps, is no less impressive.

“When my teammates go up for shots, I like to go in there and crash the boards, see if I can do anything, get a tip-in,” Oguine said. “I was just rewarded. Sometimes I’ll go crash 20 times in a game and not get one offensive rebound. That’s just how it goes.”

Aside from the wow factor, the dunk was one of the most important field goals of the game, putting Montana up 67-64 with 1:47 to go in overtime.

“I wasn’t sure if they were going to call offensive interference, so I tried to get it in real quick,” Oguine said. “In terms of, like, importance of a dunk, that was probably the most important time I’ve ever dunked the ball, you know, late game like that.”

Montana junior point guard Ahmaad Rorie/by Brooks Nuanez

RORIE REDEEMED: Montana shot an uncharacteristic 38 percent for the game. The percentage marked UM’s lowest during Big Sky Conference play and the Grizzlies’ third-worst of the season behind losses to Georgia State and Stanford.

Junior guard Ahmaad Rorie struggled, finishing just 4-of-17 from the field, including 0-of-6 from 3-point land, for 10 points. The Oregon transfer, Montana’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game coming in, was forcing pull-up jumpers and couldn’t get anything to fall.

But he stayed locked in on his defensive duties, and came up with one of the plays of the game on that end. After missing a potential game-sealing jumper with 17 seconds left in overtime and the Griz up three, he jumped the inbounds pass on the ensuing Sac State possession, deflecting the ball directly to Oguine with seven seconds to go.

“He’s got a lot of jobs,” DeCuire said of Rorie. “Scoring is just a portion of his job, but getting it to the right people, getting us in our offense, and then defending. So I think it was a good night for him in a lot of areas, the ball just didn’t go through the basket for him.”

Andrew Houghton is a freelance journalist living in Missoula.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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