A heartbreaking final possession loss to a conference rival is a story all too familiar to this year’s Montana basketball squad. After the back-to-back single point losses to Southern Utah in games two and three of the season, the trend continued with a 64-62 loss to Northern Colorado on Saturday night in Missoula.
The Griz fell to 3-6 on the season and 0-3 in conference play after the narrow defeat. Guard Robby Beasley led Montana in points off the bench with 12, along with 10 each for starters Kyle Owens and Brandon Whitney.
Beasley and Owens also led the team with five rebounds each. The assists numbers were dismal for the team tonight, with Cam Parker dishing out two of the team’s five total dimes. The team ended up shooting 40.8% from the field, including going only 1-5 from the three.
Free throws were the strongest aspect for the team throughout the game. Montana shot an impressive 21-22 from the stripe, as opposed to Northern Colorado’s 7-17.
Northern Colorado didn’t fare much better than UM when it came to field goal percentage, shooting 46.2%. It was stronger from beyond the arc, shooting 9-22 from the three, but the 13 assists to Montana’s five is what won the game tonight.
It was a slow start for Montana from the beginning. Seven blocks and 16 turnovers for the Griz indicate the physicality they played with, but a nearly stagnant offense in the first 10 minutes of the game meant Montana spent most of the game playing catch up.
In the final eight minutes, the Griz started to hit their stride, even gaining a couple of small leads. With two and a half minutes left, Montana led by five, its largest lead of the night. But three quick jumpers and two clutch free throws by game leading scorer Tre’Shon Smoots dug the Griz back into a deficit nearly as quickly as it gained its lead.
NCU guard Daylen Kuntz fouled Robby Beasley on a three-point attempt with 15 seconds left, giving him a chance to tie the game with free throws, which he did.
Fourteen seconds later, Colorado’s Bodie Hume made a layup with one second left, sealing the game. Griz freshman Josh Bannan flung up a wild three that bricked off the glass as the buzzer sounded.
Montana will have a chance at redemption. On Monday at 9:00 a.m., both teams will be back in Dahlberg arena for a rematch. Tonight marked the start of a two week long homestand for Montana, who picked up a game vs Whitworth University on Saturday the 9th, along with its scheduled two games hosting Northern Arizona on the 14th and the 16th.