With a six-game win streak snapped against Northern Arizona, the Montana men’s basketball team will look to rebound on the second leg of its road trip against Sacramento State on Saturday at the Hornets Nest.
Despite holding a seven-point lead over the Lumberjacks with 3:33 left on Thursday night, the Grizzlies faltered down the stretch. Montana did not score a point following a Kendal Manuel 3-pointer at that mark.
The Grizzlies (17-11, 13-4 Big Sky) tip off against Sac State (15-12, 8-10) on at 8 p.m. MST.
“We gained momentum and we had a big enough lead to finish it off and we just got to get a shot every time down the floor and we turned it over three consecutive times,” Montana head coach Travis DeCuire said to KGVO radio on Thursday following the loss.
Northern Arizona was able to pick and prod at the Grizzly defense late, using guard Cam Shelton to pile up points and fouls. It worked and the Lumberjacks were able to claw their way back into the game.
The Griz have been careless with the ball over their last three games and that cost them against the Jacks.
Even so, Montana shot 68.2% in the second half and was efficient scoring throughout the game.
“Down the stretch they were going one-on-one and we couldn’t get stops. I think they scored five out of six possessions and that kept them in the game and now they got their lead,” DeCuire said. “If you look at the point total I thought we were good and very efficient defensively in the first half.”
While Montana will not have to deal with a guard quite the caliber of Shelton against Sacramento State, the Hornets do have Josh Patton, one of the best forwards in the conference.
He leads the Hornets with 12.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a contest. Montana was able to limit the 6-foot-8 senior in the team’s first matchup, a 52-50 Grizzly win.
Patton had just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting and also had three turnovers. Montana had control of the first matchup for most of the game, but needed free throws late from Manuel to hold off Sacramento State.
Jared Samuelson was able to find some space in the team’s first meeting, tying for a game-high in points with 14, hitting two 3-pointers and also blocking three shots.
Samuelson scored 19 on just 12 shots against Northern Arizona on Thursday night in another strong performance. With Sayeed Pridgett struggling to find his shot against the Lumberjacks, the lanky forward from Billings could be in line for a few more shots.
Pridgett scored just eight points in the loss to Northern Arizona, a season-low and broke a 41-game streak of scoring in double figures. It was the fifth-longest streak in the country coming into that game.
Following Saturday’s game, Montana will have its final homestand, hosting Northern Colorado and Southern Utah. The Grizzlies are currently tied for first in the Big Sky with the Bears and Eastern Washington.
Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com