Big Sky Conference

Montana stays perfect with win at Northern Colorado


Facing their toughest test of the season, the Griz again slammed the door shut.

In a game defined by runs, Montana stayed unblemished in Big Sky Conference competition using its trademarks — defensive relentlessness and balanced, efficient offense — to emerge with a wire-to-wire 88-79 victory at Northern Colorado on Thursday night.

The win is Montana’s 10th straight to start league play, tied for the second-longest streak in the last 55 years at UM. The Griz have won 12 of their last 13 and sit at 17-5 after the first game of the second half of the Big Sky slate.

The 10-game win streak marks the 10th time in school history that Montana has won 10 or more games in a row, including the eighth time against all Division-I opponents. Montana has won six in a row on the road, tied for the seventh-longest active streak in the NCAA.

“It was an emotional win where guys were fighting,” head coach Travis DeCuire said in a UM press release. “You’ve got to fight and you’ve got to battle, and we did that.”

Montana fourth-year head coach Travis DeCuire/by Brooks Nuanez

The Grizzlies shot 55.2 percent to take a game tied at 37 at halftime and build a lead that swelled to as 15 points after intermission. UM began the second half on a 17-4 run. Behind the impressive shooting of senior Andre Spight, UNC kept the game in single digits for the final nine minutes of the game but the Griz never trailed after halftime.

Spight poured in 32 points, hitting five 3-pointers and all 11 of his free throw attempts but it wasn’t enough for the Bears, who fell to 5-5 in league play, 14-10 overall. Jordan Davis chipped in 19 points but the hosts shot 43 percent and lost the rebounding battle 42-32 in the loss.

Montana used its typical offensive balance to solidify the season sweep of the Bears. Senior Fabijan Krslovic scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds, the point total his season high and the second-highest total of his career. Junior forward Bobby Moorehead hit four of his five 3-point tries and scored a season-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds. Junior point guard Ahmaad Rorie scored 17 points in the win.

In Montana’s 89-80 win over Northern Colorado in Missoula, junior center Jamar Akoh scored a career-high 34 points. The Bears did not double-team the 6-foot-8, 260-pounder until late in the game. Thursday in Greeley, UNC doubled and denied Akoh, allowing the bruiser to score 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 5-of-8 from the free throw line.

After a recent hot streak that included a 39-point performance in a win at Portland State and 22.5 points per game in UM’s home sweep of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, junior guard Michael Oguine finished with five points on five shots.

Krslovic’s standout night came as a result of the attention UNC paid to the Montana guards. DeCuire knew Krslovic would be guarded one-on-one. Thursday marked the first time this season that a player other than Rorie, Oguine or Akoh has led the Griz in scoring.

“We gave him a heads up before the game we were going to go to him tonight, so be ready to perform,” DeCuire said. “I thought he was ready to go, and that jump hook was looking sweet tonight.”

Montana senior post Fabijan Krslovic/ UM athletics

Montana never trailed in the contest, and while the Grizzlies led by double digits for the majority of the second half, Northern Colorado never fully went away. Northern Colorado cut the lead to six points with under two minutes to play.

The Grizzlies shot 69.2 percent in the second half – 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second period. UNC, which made 14 three-pointers last month in Missoula, was held to 8-of-26 shooting from long range.

“I thought we did an incredible job defending,” DeCuire said. “It’s about as good as you’re going to do against them, especially since two of those were step-back threes.”

Montana looks for its third road sweep of the conference season at North Dakota on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks outlasted Montana State 75-74 in Grand Forks on Thursday.

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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