SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Montana bounced back from Thursday’s loss at Northern Arizona and maintained its hold of first place with a 79-71 road win at Sacramento State on Saturday night.
Sacramento State, which limited Montana to 52 points in the last meeting and entered the night with the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense, allowed a season-high 79 points, with the Grizzlies shooting .580 from the floor.
The Hornets jumped out to an early 10-2 lead, but their last lead came at 19-17 with 10:39 to play in the first half. Montana led by double digits for the majority of the second half, before a brief change in momentum in which the Hornets scored 11 consecutive points and held Montana to just one single free throw over a six-minute stretch. That turned a 58-43 Griz lead into a 59-59 tie with 5:31 to play.
“They were on fire to start the game. We knew they were going to try and pound it in the pain. They did a good job early. But the things we challenged our guys with between Thursday and today, they did it, and the biggest thing was bringing emotional energy whether you’re on the court or on the bench,” Montana sixth-year head coach Travis DeCuire said.
Sayeed Pridgett bounced back from his first single-digit scoring game of his senior season at NAU, scoring eight points down the stretch to build Montana’s lead back up, but it was his freshman teammates Kyle Owens who got Montana started.
After the Hornets tied the game at 59-59, Owens drained a 3-pointer on the Grizzlies’ next trip up the court, with the shot-clock winding down, to give the lead back to the visitors. Moments later, he made a jumper in the paint, and then another 3-pointer. Owens finished with 11 points, including eight points during a late stretch of just 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
Owens finished a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range, despite entering the game with just six triples on the season.
Pridgett, who was coming off of his first game not in double figures in more than a year, bounced back with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, in addition to six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Four Grizzlies finished in double figures for scoring, with seniors Jared Samuelson adding 14 and Kendal Manuel chipping in with 12, in addition to Owens’ 11. Timmy Falls had nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from deep, in addition to five assists and four steals.
“We simplified what we were doing,” DeCuire said. “We knew what the stakes were, and we knew this would be tough. Sayeed did a phenomenal job of getting us in the right spots offensively. Sometimes it didn’t come for him, but we were scoring. Jared (Samuelson) really got us going down along the rim.”
- Montana has won seven consecutive games over Sacramento State.
- After losing in his first three trips to Sacramento State, Travis DeCuire has now won three straight contests inside The Nest.
- Montana’s 79 points were a season high for a Sacramento State opponent. The Hornets entered the contest ranked fourth nationally, allowing just 58.6 points per game.
- Montana scored just 52 points in its December win over Sacramento State. On Saturday, the Grizzlies had reached that point total with 14 minutes still to play.
- The Grizzlies shot .580, the ninth time in their past 10 games they have made at least half of their shots.
- After scoring single digits for the first time in 41 games on Thursday, Sayeed Pridgett responded in a big way, totaling 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, in addition to six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
- Clinging to a one-point lead with under 5 minutes to play, Pridgett scored nine of Montana’s next 16 points to secure the victory.
- Freshman Kyle Owens scored 11 points in just 15 minutes of action, in addition to taking three charges.
- Owens, who entered the game with six made 3-pointers on the season, was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep.
- Following Sacramento State’s 16-1 run to tie the game with 6 minutes to play, Owens responded with a triple to put Montana back on top for good. Over a stretch of 2:20 late in the game, Owens scored eight points.
- Senior Jared Samuelson scored 14 points, with 12 coming in the game’s first 22 minutes, which allowed Montana to jump out to a 43-33 lead.
- Playing near his hometown of Dublin, Falls made all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half and finished with nine points, in addition to five assists and four steals.
- Pridgett and Manuel both played all 40 minutes, while Falls logged 38 minutes.
- Montana leads the Big Sky Conference for turnover margin, but had averaged 14.5 turnovers over the past two games. The Grizzlies got back on track with just eight giveaways on Saturday.
- For just the second time in 20 games, Montana was called for fewer fouls than its opponent (18 to 19).
- Montana trailed 10-2 just minutes into the game, but responded with a 9-2 run, including four consecutive made baskets by four different players, to take a 20-19 lead.
- Sacramento State’s final lead came at 19-17, with 10:39 to play in the first half.
- Holding an eight-point halftime lead, Montana then scored nine points in the first 4 minutes of the second half to extend its lead to double digits, which it would hold for the next 10 minutes.
- After leading by a game-high 15 points, 58-43, Sacramento State used a 16-1 run to tie the game at 59-59 with 5:31 to play. During the six-minute stretch, Montana made just one free throw.
- Following the scoring drought, in which Montana missed five consecutive shots, the Grizzlies made six of their final seven shots to close out the win.
(on Pridgett’s all-around performance)
“He’s a gamer. He responded. He showed up when we needed him most, and being his last game at Sac, we knew he was going to perform.”
(on Owens’ breakout night)
“His offense was big, but the three charges (he drew) were huge. We had a team meeting and challenged the guys a little bit. He’s put in as much work as any freshman I’ve ever had. The percentages don’t say that, so I told him his time will come. It might be next year, we don’t know. You just have to keep grinding, and it was fun to see tonight be one of his nights.”
(on Owens’ 3-pointer to give Montana the lead for good, 62-59)
“It was a grind. They were scrambling, trapping us. We couldn’t get anything, we were trying to get it to Jared (Samuelson). It’s a countdown… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… You know you have to shoot it, and once he saw the first one go through, they kept going after that.”
(on chasing a championship during the final week of the regular season)
“Thursday is a big game. We need Missoula behind us. We need a crowd for a Thursday-night game. If we can get an emotional environment, it’ll be fun. We have to take care of business, one game at a time.”
In the Big Sky Conference game of the week, Eastern Washington beat Northern Colorado in Greeley to remain tied for first place with one week to play. Entering Saturday, Montana, Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado were all tied atop the league standings.
Montana hosts third-place Northern Colorado on Thursday, followed by Southern Utah on Saturday.
The Grizzlies, who own a potential tiebreaker advantage over Eastern Washington, can clinch a share of the Big Sky Conference regular-season title with a win Thursday and an Eastern Washington loss. Tickets can be purchased online. Additionally, Montana is offering $2 general-admission tickets to both games next week.