Though Montana led by as much as eight points against the PAC-12 opponent Arizona, the Griz couldn’t bounce back from foul trouble and a 41 point Wildcat half, and lost 64-70. The game, in Tuscan, Arizona, concluded Montana’s non-conference schedule, which included four Power-Five opponents.
Arizona came into the game after a close loss to PAC-12 rival Stanford, Arizona’s first defeat of the year. The Wildcats defeated fellow Big Sky Conference team Eastern Washington, which was picked first in the Big Sky preseason poll, 70-67.
The loss snapped Montana’s three game winning streak, though it appeared in the first half Montana had an edge over Arizona. The Griz started strong with the inside presence of Kyle Owens, who was able to get points in the paint alongside newcomer Robby Beasley.
Beasley, who was playing in his second career game, gave Montana a lead 32-24 with a long arching three pointer with 3:30 left in the game. Not only did Beasley get minutes, he ended the game with 17 points, leading for the Griz.
Montana forced Arizona to go inside the arch for a majority of its plays, and the Wildcats shot at just 1-8 from three in the first half. Montana shot at 3-6.
By halftime, Montana led the game 36-29.
The Wildcats immediately tightened the lead when the second half started, and as the game continued, Arizona’s James Akinjo put up a 15-8 run, and tied the game 49 all with 12 minutes to go in the game.
From there, Montana and Arizona began a bucket battle, and though Montana was still shooting, it gave up 11 turnovers in the second half. Arizona scored 8 points off of turnovers in the half, but it was able to hold Montana to just 23 FG attempts to end the game.
The Griz also entered foul trouble late in the game, with Michael Steadman picking up his fifth foul with six minutes to go in the game. Montana was forced to play the foul game in the last two minutes, and though it picked up some points, Arizona held it together, and beat the Griz 70-64.
Montana now has a week off for Christmas and preparation for the start of Big Sky Conference play. The team plays at home versus Northern Colorado Dec 31.