Ahmaad Rorie struggled shooting the ball Saturday.
But the Montana Grizzlies’ leading scorer found another way to get involved. He set up teammates for open shots and finished with a team-high seven assists to help Montana earn a 72-67 road win over North Dakota and move to 11-0 in the Big Sky Conference.
His seven assists were a season high and more than double his average of 3.4 heading into the game, which ranked first on the team. They’re also one off his career high at Montana; he had eight assists on Dec. 22, 2016, against Pepperdine.
“I gave all credit in the locker room to Ahmaad Rorie,” Griz head coach Travis DeCuire told KGVO Radio after the game. “We talk about defining success. Giving up individual goals for the better of the group is how we define that as Griz. I think he’s done a wonderful job of doing that this year. It wasn’t his night. He knew it, based on how they were defending him.”
Rorie dished out four of his assists in the second half, including three key ones as the Griz staged their comeback.
He grabbed a defensive rebound, brought the ball down the court and fed forward Jamar Akoh for a layup to cap a 7-1 run that put Montana up 52-50 with 9:50 to play. He assisted Akoh again on a layup that put the Griz up 56-55.
In the final minute, he drove through the lane and kicked out a pass to Mike Oguine for a 3-pointer from the right wing. That gave Montana a 67-60 lead with 48 seconds left.
“He made the right plays down the stretch for those guys to have the ability to put the ball into the basket,” DeCuire said. “That’s when it’s a team effort.”
Rorie had one his worst nights shooting the ball this season. His nine points, three made field goals – on 11 attempts – and 27.3 percent shooting from the field were all his lowest in conference play.
However, he scored seven of those points in the second half and came up with five clutch points down the stretch.
After Geno Crandall hit a jumper to put North Dakota up 57-56, Rorie made a 3-pointer that gave the Griz the lead for good and slowed any potential North Dakota run. He had missed his first three 3-point attempts.
“The three that Ahmaad hit … it was a play to Jamar,” DeCuire said. “But we knew the way they handled that, that he probably could get that shot. He jumps up and knocks it down. That was probably the biggest three of the game next to Mike’s.”
Rorie didn’t try to force up a shot in the final 3:29 as the Griz closed the game on a 10-7 run. His only attempts came at the free-throw line, when he knocked down a pair with seven seconds left to push lead to 72-67.
“The guys believe in each other, for one,” DeCuire said. “Usually when you got a teammate that you believe in, it’s a lot easier to have confidence in yourself and not feel like you got to put the world on your own shoulders. I thought that’s what happened down the stretch.”