Montana erases 20-point deficit, but falls just short to Georgia Southern, 80-77

Montana was handed its first loss of the season on Sunday night, losing to unbeaten Georgia Southern in the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase title game, 80-77. The game was a tale of two halves, with Montana trailing by 20 at halftime before having a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.

Midway through the first half, the Grizzlies were doubled up (40-20), and they went into the halftime intermission with a 20-point deficit for the first time in two years. But as Travis DeCuire‘s Grizzlies have been known to do, Montana came out of the locker room energized and determined.

They quickly got back in the game, opening the second half on a 15-3 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Montana didn’t allow the Eagles to make a field goal until 9 minutes into the second half, with Georgia Southern missing its first six shots of the half and turning the ball over six times during that stretch.

Montana would get within a single possession on a three-pointer from Bobby Moorehead to cut the score to 61-58 with 8:32 to play, but GSU countered with 12 of the game’s next 14 points.

Still, Montana had one more run in it, using a 13-1 run over the next 4 minutes to shrink a 13-point deficit to a single point with 1:55 to play. Montana had a shot to tie the game with just over a minute to play.

Ahmaad Rorie’s three-point attempt missed, but Bobby Moorehead got the offensive rebound and dished it off to Sayeed Pridgett who laid it in (76-75, 51 seconds). GSU converted a three-point play on the other end, but Michael Oguine quickly drove the length of the court to cut the score to 79-77 with 20 seconds to play. Montana fouled, and after the Eagles made one of two from the free-throw line, the Griz had a shot to tie the game in the closing seconds. Moorehead’s three was off the mark, but Rorie was able to secure the loose ball, quickly dribble it beyond the arc and heave a turnaround attempt that was blocked.

Game Notes

  • Montana made at least half of its shots for the fourth game in a row (29 of 58, .500).
  • Rorie led all Grizzlies with 19 points and six assists. He was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 17.3 points on .500 shooting, in addition to 4.67 assists over three games.
  • In addition to Rorie, Oguine had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists on Sunday; Pridgett had 14 points and team highs for rebounds (six), steals (two) and blocked shots (two); Moorehead tallied 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc; Kendal Manuel recorded nine points and tied for the team lead with six rebounds and two steals.
  • During Montana’s run to open the second half, it got the majority of its production from its two junior starters. Pridgett had eight points down low while Moorehead connected on a pair of three-pointers.
  • Montana used a 13-1 run to turn a 13-point deficit with 5:49 to play to just one point with 1:55 on the clock. Montana got five points from Rorie and six points from Oguine during that run, in addition to a steal and bucket from Moorehead to make it a one-point game.
  • Montana made six of its first 12 shots through the game’s first 11 minutes (50.0 percent), but Georgia Southern was even better, shooting 12 of 16 (75.0 percent).
  • Montana played without two of its main starters, and just seven players overall saw the court. Six of them had at least three fouls, as the Grizzlies were whistled 24 times on the night.
  • Donaven Dorsey earned his first start as a Grizzly. He had five points, a steal and a blocked shot before fouling out.
  • Montana’s 4-0 start to the year was its best since 1995-96.
  • Georgia Southern improved to 5-0 on the young season. The Eagles were expected by many to finish second in the Sun Belt behind Georgia State.
  • Montana’s 20-point halftime deficit was its largest since Nov. 19, 2016 vs. Washington State (21). The Grizzlies never led on Sunday night.
  • Since the start of 2017-18, Montana has trailed by double digits at halftime five times. The Grizzlies have at least gotten to within a point of their opponent in all five instances, including a 17-point win over Eastern Washington in the 2018 Big Sky Championship finals.

Quoting DeCuire
(on the team’s 20-point halftime deficit)
“This game reminds me of our game at Georgia State last December. I’m not sure we showed up with enough respect for our opponent, and we found ourselves in a hole. Right now, we’re not the most disciplined basketball team, and that’s an issue for us, and a measure of concern if we’re going to play at a high level and be a good basketball team. We can’t be that way.”

(on the team’s slow start)
“Two of our biggest keys were transition defense and containing penetration, and we didn’t do either of those in the first 8 minutes. Offensively, we talked about spacing and trusting each other and playing together, and we didn’t do that either. We had a plan for it, we just didn’t execute it until the second half.”

(on the halftime message in the locker room)
“They were quiet. There were a couple guys trying to get guys going. We talked about the right things, dug in and pushed the right buttons, and got them motivated to go. We took winning out of it and you just said, ‘OK, let’s see if can dig back into it. Let’s go win the first 4 minutes and see what happens’. We went out there and played with that level of desperation that was missing.”

(on making a run and having a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes)
“We got close. We had opportunities to tie the game, and we just went rogue too many times. Guys were trying to tie it with 3 minutes left instead of driving to the rim and getting back on defense. Every time we got within three to five points, we lost sight of that (playing together) and we lost the game.”

(on not being able to use a larger rotation)
“That’s where the depth comes in. When you don’t have guys who show up and are ready to play, that’s when you go to the bench, but I just wasn’t deep enough to do that tonight.”

(on growing from the loss)
“You learn from losses more than wins. It was the same thing last night. We found ourselves behind and we came back, and I think we thought we were just going to do it again. We’ll be OK. We just need to get back in the gym, stay focused and get better.”

Up Next
After five games in 10 days to begin the season, the Grizzlies will finally get a break. From the Bahamas, the team will fly its separate ways for Thanksgiving, before rejoining Friday in Missoula. The team’s next game is Nov. 28 at Creighton.