New year, same results.
After all of the drama that happened on Thursday, Montana defeated Sacramento State 86-68 on Saturday night at the The Nest to lock up the No. 1 seed in next week's Big Sky Conference tournament.
UM was tied with Northern Colorado for first place after losing to Portland State on Thursday. However, the Bears fell to Northern Arizona in overtime on Saturday, giving Montana the top spot before the Grizzlies even tipped off. The win over Sac State guaranteed Montana the outright title for the second straight year.
Five players scored in double figures for Montana, led by junior Sayeed Pridgett, who had 17 points. Senior Michael Oguine and sophomore Timmy Falls each had 16, while redshirt junior Kendal Manuel tallied 13 and redshirt senior Ahmaad Rorie added 11.
"When you have good players and a good staff, good things happen," Montana coach Travis DeCuire told KGVO after the game. "The thing I'm most excited about with this group is their buy-in. Their commitment to success even through adversity. They hung in there together."
The win wasn't without its stress as Montana and Sac State stayed neck-and-neck throughout the contest. Montana led 43-41 at half.
Just four minutes into the second half, the Hornets grabbed a 51-50 lead, but from there, the game belonged to Montana. The Grizzlies jumped to a 67-53 lead, stifling the Hornets' offense over that seven-minute stretch. Sac State never got within single digits again as Montana took control and bounced back from Thursday's loss in a big way.
"We had a hard talk with a couple guys and we made some changes," DeCuire said. "We dialed in today, accepted what we had and made the most of it."
Sac State shot 43.1 percent from the field but only 28.1 percent (9 for 32) in the second half and 21.1 percent from deep. On the other hand, Montana was hot, finishing with a 59.6 percent clip from the field and 45.5-percent performance from beyond the arc.
Montana turned the ball over 10 times in the first half but just six in the second. Rebounding improved too, as the Griz grabbed just six rebounds in the first half but 22 in the second.
Montana now has a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Griz will play either Sac State or Northern Arizona on Thursday. Montana State fell to Portland State 84-80 on Saturday, so the Bobcats fell to the sixth seed and lost their chance at a bye. They will take on last-place Idaho on Wednesday while Southern Utah and Idaho State will also play Wednesday.
Eastern Washington beat Weber State, so the Eagles earned the No. 3 seed and will await the winner of Idaho and MSU on Thursday. Northern Colorado, the No. 2 seed, will take on the Idaho State-Southern Utah winner. Weber State fell to the fourth seed and will take on Portland State, the fifth seed, on Thursday.
DeCuire is now the only coach in UM history to win three regular-season titles.