MISSOULA — When Kyle Owens is feeling good and hitting shots, the Montana men's basketball team is tough to slow down.
The 6-foot-8 forward was on a tear in Thursday night's 80-67 rivalry win over Weber State at Dahlberg Arena. He scored a career-high 27 points while tossing in four 3-point shots, which also set the high-water mark of his young career.
Of those 27 points, 11 came in the first seven minutes as the Grizzlies raced to a 28-19 lead. Montana did not look back from there.
"I think the ball was just moving and I think we just moved until we got an open shot," Owens said following the game. "That just comes with my teammates trusting me to hit my shots when I get to my spots and we just go from there."
It was just that sort of night for Owens, who has become one of the go-to players for the Grizzlies this season. He hit 11 of 16 field goal attempts in total and made six of his final seven to help put the Wildcats away.
Owens has displayed a knack for knocking down 3-pointers this season and got several perimeter shots from the corner, one of which came after freshman Josh Bannan found him with time ticking down following a wild scramble under the basket.
Montana got a number of late shots to go, with several coming from Owens.
"There's nothing worse than defending and thinking you're going to get a shock clock violation and then all the sudden someone hits a three," Montana head coach Travis DeCuire said after the game. "That's heartbreaking and to have that happen, and to have that happen three or four times in a half, sometimes that breaks you.
"But when someone jumps up and makes a shot, guys get on that. Those types of shots are key to give us confidence."
Montana used a 12-2 first-half run to help build the lead as Weber State struggled to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball.
The Wildcats were held well below their season average on 84.5 points per game, which coming into the contest was the 7th-best scoring average in the country. The 67 points the Wildcats scored was their second-lowest total of the season, behind a 59-point outing on the road against Boise State.
"They came out and we knew they were going to pressure us and they got into us and I think that got us a little out of rhythm," Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said to KLO radio following the game. "And then once we got into a rhythm in the second half, I just don't think our defense played very well."
Montana played very well at the 3-point line on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies converted 9 of 18 attempts from behind the arc, while the Wildcats hit just 3 of 14 3-point shots. Weber State came into the contest hitting 41% of its 3-point shots, the second-best mark in the nation.
Montana's defensive performance was the first thing DeCuire hit on in his postgame presser.
"Guys, defense wins games, I don't know that I can put any way better than that," DeCuire exclaimed. "Our guys were tuned in to the scout, we made a few adjustments to some of the things that we've been struggling with in the past, but we were locked in on the defensive end."
DeCuire went on to say the team had three difficult practices this week and the Grizzlies did some drills they do not normally do in the days leading up to Thursday.
Cameron Parker was also in double figures for Montana with 15 points and added on six assists and two rebounds.
Josh Bannan, too, was in double figures for Montana, scoring 13 points on 6 of 6 shooting from the field in one of his best overall performances of the year.
"I just was in the right place at the right time a lot of the time," Bannan said. "I'm lucky that a lot of guys pass the ball and made some great passes that I was on the receiving end of."
Added DeCuire: "He was phenomenal on both sides of the ball ... Bannan played a very balanced game on both sides of the ball and we've been needing that out of him all year."
Montana played stingy defense throughout and Weber State was never able to get in a consistent rhythm offensively. The Grizzlies also committed just 12 turnovers, below their season average of 14.2 per game.
The Grizzlies will go for their first Big Sky sweep of the season on Saturday, with tip scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Montana has split its last four two-game series against Big Sky teams.
UM moves to 9-9 on the season and 5-6 in league play. Weber State drops to 11-5 and 6-3 in the Big Sky.
NOTES: DJ Carter-Hollinger notched his third start of the season for the Grizzlies ... UM shot 64% from the field in the half including 6 of 8 from behind the arc ... The Grizzlies are 7-1 against Weber State in the last eight meetings.