POCATELLO, Idaho – It wasn’t easy, but at the end of the night, Montana is 7-1 in Big Sky Conference play following another victory on the road. The Grizzlies held on late to beat Idaho State, 77-74, on Thursday night.
Montana took a 3-2 lead on its first offensive possession, just 28 seconds into the game, and never trailed from that point forward. The victory was far from easy, however.
The Grizzlies led by a dozen at the break and by as many as 14 – 47-33 following a Jared Samuelson jumper in the paint 90 seconds into the second half. Idaho State, though, would score the next nine points, and used a 21-7 run over the next 7 minutes to tie the game at 54-54.
Sayeed Pridgett drove the length of the court to quickly give Montana the lead back, which it would never relinquish, but the score was always within two possessions over the final 7 minutes.
Montana led 75-71 with under a minute to go, but the Grizzlies turned the ball over in the backcourt, which led to an easy Bengals basket. The Grizzlies missed a shot on their next possession, giving Idaho State the opportunity to tie the game.
Idaho State’s Tre Cool drew a foul with 9 seconds to play, but missed the second free throw, which would have knotted the score. Still, Idaho State rebounded the loose ball and had a chance to take the lead. Chidi Udengwu’s putback missed everything, and Samuelson was there to secure the ball.
Idaho State fouled Josh Vazquez, with the freshman calmly sinking both free throws. The Bengals’ half-court attempt to tie the game at the buzzer was off the mark.
Montana had four players in double figures for scoring, led by Kendal Manuel’s 21. Samuelson scored 16 points – including 13 in the first half – while Pridgett added 13 despite being limited due to foul trouble. Junior Timmy Falls had a great night, scoring 10 points – including several clutch shots that came at big moments – in addition to two assists and one steal. Perhaps biggest, though, was his defense. Once again, Falls was matched up against an opponent’s leading scorer, and once again, Falls shut him down. Cool was held to 1-of-8 shooting on the night.
- Montana’s only deficit came at 2-0. The Grizzlies took a 3-2 lead on their first offensive possession and didn’t trail for the remainder of the contest.
- Montana has won four consecutive games, with two of the victories coming on the road.
- Senior Kendal Manuel led all players with 21 points. Shortly after Idaho State tied the game at 54-54, Manuel scored seven consecutive points for Montana.
- It marked the fifth time this season he has reached 20 points in a game, including the third time in the past five games.
- Senior Jared Samuelson scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, in addition to leading the Grizzlies for rebounding (7), steals (2) and blocked shots (2).
- Samuelson reached double figures for scoring less than 9 minutes into the game, scoring 10 of the Grizzlies’ first 21 points.
- Junior Timmy Falls scored 10 points. He connected on two three-pointers, the first giving Montana its first double-digit lead and the second snapping Idaho State’s 9-0 run. He made another shot to push the Grizzlies’ lead to two possessions with under 5 minutes to play.
- Falls led all players by playing more than 38 minutes before fouling out.
- Senior Sayeed Pridgett was hampered by foul trouble, picking up his third whistle after playing for just 3:10. He finished with 13 points – a Big Sky low – but was still able to pull down six rebounds and lead Montana with four assists.
- In the final 90 seconds, sophomore Mack Anderson blocked a shot and converted an and-1 to give Montana a 74-69 advantage. He finished with five points.
- Sophomore Yagizhan Selcuk scored six consecutive Griz points to close the first half. It marked his first points since scoring two in the Big Sky opener vs. Northern Arizona.
- Montana shot .615 in the first half, connecting on 16-of-26 shots, in addition to all six of its free-throw attempts.
- The Grizzlies shot .483 overall, despite shooting .375 in the second half.
- Montana made 16 of 19 free-throw attempts (.842), including all seven attempts from Manuel.
- Montana used a 9-2 run late in the first half to build a double-digit lead.
- After leading by as many as 14, 47-33, Idaho State scored nine consecutive points and 21 of 28 to tie the game at 54-54.
- Montana missed four consecutive shots while turning the ball over once, while Idaho State made 5-of-6 shots to begin the run.
- Nine of Idaho State’s first 15 points came from the free-throw line. The Grizzlies were called for 26 personal fouls, leading to 34 free-throw attempts for the Bengals. Two Montana players fouled out, with four more being called four three or four.
- Montana beat Idaho State for the 18th consecutive time, with its last loss coming on Dec. 31, 2009. Travis DeCuire is 9-0 against the Bengals, including 5-0 in Pocatello.
(on holding on late)
“I thought our execution was good, considering what we went through in the first half. Our execution, on the offensive and defensive ends, failed in the second half, and that got us into a dogfight. We survived, though.”
(on a strong start offensively)
“We were getting post touches. We wanted to attack the rim, and our field-goal percentage near the rim was really good.”
(on closing the game out after ISU tied the game at 54-54)
“We went back to defending the way we had in the first half. We got some stops, we got some rebounds, we got locked in. Once they tied it, we started to respect our opponent a little better.”
(on Falls’ impact on both sides of the ball)
“He’s starting to establish himself as one of the best defenders in the league, if not the best along the perimeter. He’s prepared to shoot it, and he’s starting to make his shots. He was so dialed in defensively, and it really got us going.”
Montana will bus to Ogden, Utah, on Friday, and will play at Weber State on Saturday evening. Weber State was picked to finish in third place in both preseason polls, but is just 2-6 following a buzzer-beater loss to Montana State on Thursday.