MISSOULA — Road wins have eluded the Montana men’s basketball team so far this season, but the Grizzlies will have another opportunity at their first on Sunday afternoon.
Montana (3-4) heads to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a matchup with the Lobos in The Pit. Tip is slated for 1:05 p.m., less than 40 hours after the Grizzlies finished up a win over Coppin State on Friday evening.
“It’s a quick turnaround, we had our rest at the beginning of the week, we’ll be up here in the morning, walk through, watch some film, break a quick sweat and get on the plane and go,” Montana head coach Travis DeCuire said after Friday’s game against the Eagles. “Then Sunday morning, it’s an early game, so we’ve got to get up early Sunday morning and be ready to compete.”
New Mexico (6-2) is a top-100 team in both the Sagarin and KenPom rankings and is coming off a win over Wisconsin. The Lobos' lone two losses are to a ranked Auburn team in the opening round of the Legends Classic and to the University of Texas-El Paso on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Four players average double-figure scoring for New Mexico, led by senior guard JaQuan Lyle’s 16.9 points per game on 46.7% shooting from the field. Lyle, an Ohio State transfer, averages 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game and had connected on 15 of 39 3-point attempts.
Carlton Bragg, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, has recorded a double-double twice this season and is averaging 10.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Corey Manigault and Makuach Maluach each average 10.6 points on the deep New Mexico roster.
In fact, nine players have seen 45 minutes or more for the Lobos this season and 13 have played. Lyle, Bragg, Makuach, Vance Jackson and JJ Caldwell have been the starters for all eight of New Mexico’s games.
The Lobos average 78.9 points an outing, while Montana is allowing just 65.4 per game. The Grizzly defense has kept the team in several games this season and they are hoping to break through on the road against New Mexico.
“We’ve got to get all the wins we can,” junior guard Timmy Falls said. “I think our group is more capable of what the group was my freshman year, my sophomore year, so I think we’ll be fine and we’re just going to keep growing.”
Sunday’s contest is nonconference game No. 8 of 12 for Montana as the Grizzles edge closer to the start of the Big Sky season. It will also be the first time this season UM enters a game on a win streak.
DeCuire wanted his team to come out with the same tenacity against Coppin State as it did in its previous game against Texas Southern and was happy with the response.
The sixth-year head coach called it the best start Montana has had to a game all year and was equally impressed with how the Griz closed out the victory. He is just hopeful it continues on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve just got to find ways to win,” DeCuire said. “To pull away, the way we did, multiple times and then be able to close it out really defensively, it’s huge for such a young team.”