MISSOULA — Following an 0-2 road trip, the Montana men's basketball team is probably happy to be back home.
The road trip for Montana (1-2) was a bit of a mixed bag.
It started with a thumping against a talented team that could find itself dancing in March in the NCAA tournament, Mississippi State. Montana had things close for the first five minutes, then the hosting Bulldogs exploded for a 86-49 win over the Grizzlies.
There was some good, like junior Derrick Carter-Hollinger looking more and more healthy with a team-high 11 points and a pair of triples. But overall it was a rough showing for Montana.
Then, after a not-so-quick trip to Grand Forks, the Grizzlies took on fellow mid-major — and former Big Sky Conference opponent — North Dakota.
The Fighting Hawks and Grizzlies played a tight game most of the way until Montana appeared to pull away, leading by 14 points with under eight minutes on the clock. North Dakota outscored Montana 24-8 over the final stretch to take a 79-77 win despite Brandon Whitney's career night.
The Grizzlies had it, but couldn't sustain the lead late.
"The guys showed that it's there," DeCuire said on the KGVO postgame show that night. "They have the ability to defend and get stops; we just couldn't sustain it for the whole 40 (minutes)."
The Grizzlies return home Saturday night to face Nebraska Omaha (1-2) in a battle of teams each looking for their first wins over Division I teams this season. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. following a loaded Saturday that includes plenty of sports across Montana.
The Mavericks opened the season with a 10-point win over NAIA Hastings College, then dropped two straight on the road to Ball State (73-69) and Kansas State (79-64). Similar to Montana, the Mavericks also opened with a win over an NAIA team.
Omaha went 5-20 last season and has had to mostly redo its roster. Junior guard Kyle Luedtke leads the team with 12 points per game on a 44% shooting clip from 3-point range. The junior played just 12.6 minutes per game last season.
Omaha was picked eighth in the Summit League preseason poll after finishing as the eighth seed last season.
Following the Omaha game, the Grizzlies will host three more games as the Zootown Classic starts Wednesday.