For the first time in 12 years, the University of Montana lost its first conference game. The Griz fell to Southern Utah in a nailbiter, 64-63.
“We’re not where we would normally be in conference,” said UM head coach Travis DeCuire postgame.
This was UM’s earliest scheduled conference game ever. DeCuire also mentioned that UM had a pre-season scrimmage canceled.
A big reason for UM’s loss was fouls. Two of UM’s post players fouled out and the Griz fouled Southern Utah 28 times. The Thunderbirds shot 23 more free throws than the Griz.
UM also turned the ball over 13 times and had zero points off of Southern Utah’s turnovers.
UM freshman guard Bradon Whitney saw his first start of the season after scoring 17 points against the University of Southern California in UM’s season opener. Whitney finished with 6 points and a steal.
Ten different players saw the court for UM in the first half and helped the Griz shoot 50% from the field. Southern Utah made 36% of its shots in the first half.
Redshirt senior forward Michael Steadman made his first three shots and helped UM open up a 16-10 early lead. He also picked up three fouls in the first half and sat out for a large majority of it.
Steadman finished the game with 12 points.
Junior guard and Sacred Heart University transfer Cameron Parker hit a 3-pointer later on in the first part of the game to help UM pull ahead 20-11. Parker had 8 points and four assists in the game.
After Parker’s triple, Southern Utah responded by going on a 9-2 run, narrowing UM’s lead to only 4 points at one point.
The Griz carried the energy from a two-handed Cameron Satterwhite dunk into halftime, where they led 34-28. Satterwhite, a redshirt senior guard, only scored on that dunk.
Southern Utah tied the game at 40 in the second half thanks to its star guard John Knight III, who had a game-high 21 points.
“For a while we had him (Knight III) where we wanted,” said DeCuire. “At points we had the wrong guy on him in transition.”
Steadman and Mack Anderson helped UM establish a rhythm later in the second half, but they both eventually fouled out. Anderson, a junior forward, had 5 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
When Anderson fouled out, Southern Utah was able to pull ahead by 3 points thanks to a pair of free throws with forty seconds left in the game.
To keep UM’s hopes alive, Sophomore guard Josh Vazquez nailed a clutch 3-pointer for the Griz.
Vazquez scored a team-high 14 points, the second highest point total of his career. He made four of his six 3-point attempts.
Knight II dribbled out nearly all of the time left in the game when Southern Utah regained possession and was fouled on a drive to the basket. He made his first free throw and missed the second.
UM was able to rebound the second miss, but only two seconds remained on the clock. Freshman Forward Josh Bannan missed a half court shot attempt at the buzzer to secure Southern Utah’s win.
UM shot 49% from the field in the game while Southern Utah shot 33%.
UM’s next game will be against Southern Utah again on Dec. 3.
DeCuire said it will be a “late night watching film” as the Griz will take on Southern Utah only two days after the teams’ first matchup.