Only five players scored for the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday night against Idaho State.
Turns out, that’s all they needed.
Montana defeated Idaho State 80-68 to win its ninth men’s basketball game in a row at Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho. The Grizzlies improved to 19-6 overall and 12-2 in league play.
Every Griz player who scored ended up with double figures against the Bengals. Junior Sayeed Pridgett, the reigning Big Sky player of the week, added to his candidacy for next week’s award as he poured in a game-high 22 points on 11-for-15 shooting.
Pridgett also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and dished five assists. Redshirt junior Kendal Manuel added 20 off of the bench, going 7 for 10 from the field and canning a scorching 6 of 7 from deep. Manuel added four rebounds.
Redshirt senior Ahmaad Rorie finished with 15 points and five assists and senior Michael Oguine also added 11 points and five rebounds.
True freshman Mack Anderson had the best game of his young Grizzly career on Saturday night. After showing flashes throughout the season, Anderson finished with a season-high 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He played 22 minutes, another season-high, and grabbed four rebounds.
“He’s been on the verge for a while and I think he’s been unlucky on a couple foul calls (where he’d get) two foul calls in the first half so I couldn’t play him and then those games were close down the stretch so it was hard to throw him in,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said to KGVO about the Bozeman product after the game. “He needed some flow and rhythm.”
DeCuire added that they’ve been trying to work Anderson into games as much as possible. He said that rough stretches with other players forced UM to keep him in the game where the freshman ended up making the most of his opportunity.
“Tonight he defended very well and kept himself out of trouble which allowed him to play good minutes. He played good minutes against Weber as well,” DeCuire said. “When he’s playing good (defense) and staying out of foul trouble, the offense will come. He’s a phenomenal finisher and these guys love to pass him the ball.”
The game wasn’t always smooth-sailing though for UM. Idaho State came out hot and knocked down 7 of its first 11 shots and the Bengals led 20-11 at the 12:32 mark in the opening half.
From there, Montana’s defense locked in. The Bengals were 3 for 17 on their remaining first-half shots as the Griz raced back to take a 40-32 lead by the break. Trailing 29-22 with 5:44 to go, Montana went on an 18-2 run to turn the tide of the game.
Montana’s offense struggled at first but Anderson and Manuel combined for 14 first-half points off the bench to keep the Griz within striking distance before Pridgett and Rorie took over and scored 16 of Montana’s 18 points during that run.
The Grizzlies made 10 shots in a row down the stretch.
“That’s the thing for us is we have so many guys that can put it in the basket. We just have to let each other do it,” DeCuire said. “Ahmaad caught fire. A couple guys made extra passes to get him the ball in some spots and he shot a couple off the bounce which is what he does.
“Then in the second half Kendal caught fire and Mike’s setting flare screens and Ahmaad’s making the extra pass and turning down shots. These guys are doing an incredible job of sharing right now.”
Idaho State never let Montana run away, particularly because the Bengals were capitalizing on Grizzly turnovers. ISU forced UM into 14 total turnovers and scored 21 second-chance points.
Twice the Bengals got within three off of 3-point baskets from Gary Chivichyan and Balint Mocsan. But both times Manuel answered with threes of his own to make sure that was as close as ISU got.
“We called his number. One time I called it, second time coach (Jay Flores) called it and he responded with both of those which allowed us to pull away,” DeCuire said about Manuel. “But I thought his defense was better. He did a good job of containing guys and he was aggressive on the glass for us.”
Up 55-51 with 11:09 to play, the Grizzlies went on an 18-4 run that was capped off by back-to-back 3-pointers by Manuel to essentially put the game away with 5:46 to go.
Montana shot 55.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. Idaho State converted 39 percent of its shots from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Mocsan led the Bengals (9-15, 5-10) with 18 and Alonzo Walker added 16.
The Grizzlies played their third straight game without redshirt senior Jamar Akoh but still out-rebounded the Bengals 36-28.
Montana hosts rival Montana State next Saturday.