Entering Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild against Montana State, Montana hadn’t lost a home game since November. But its bitter rival Montana State hoped to change that. Despite MSU’s upset hopes, the UM men continued their dominance on their home floor with a 78-64 victory in front of 7,040 noisy fans.
“I haven’t been involved in too many games that have more energy,” said UM head coach Travis DeCuire after the game.
During the first five minutes of the game, both teams exchanged blows. But UM managed to pull ahead to a 13-10 lead.
Later in the first half, UM senior guards Kendal Manuel and Sayeed Pridgett drained back-to-back 3-pointers, giving UM a strong 34-23 lead over MSU. Pridgett finished the game with 24 points while Manuel finished with 10.
When asked how he felt about playing against MSU for the last time ever at home, Pridgett responded, “I didn’t want it to be done, so I’m just trying to keep my mind off of it to be honest.”
UM made 10 3-pointers in the first half, while only allowing MSU to make five of their 3-point attempts. Manuel made a 3-pointer with only seconds remaining in the first half, boosting UM's lead to 54-39 by halftime.
In the second half, Montana State’s senior guard Harald Frey demonstrated his prowess. Frey made a couple deep 3-pointers five minutes into the second half, helping his team come within 7 points of UM. Frey finished the game with a whopping 37 points.
“It’s a special environment,” said Frey about the Brawl of the Wild. "People talk about all the hate these places [Bozeman and Missoula] have for each other, but I think both schools wouldn’t want it any other way. “
UM freshman forward Kyle Owens made two free throws to expand UM’s lead to 74-60 with 2:15 remaining in the game. Owens finished with 14 points in the game.
As Frey stepped up to the free-throw line late in the game, the UM student section began chanting “USA! USA!” at Frey, who was born in Norway. Frey missed both free-throws and shortly after, UM freshman forward Derrick Carter-Hollinger made a tough layup for the Griz. Carter-Hollinger finished with 7 points and eight rebounds in the game.
UM won its 300th meeting with MSU 78-64, making its season record 12-10. The win also expanded UM’s home record to 8-1 and its conference record to 8-3.
UM’s next game will be at home against Eastern Washington on Feb. 6. The Griz will replay MSU for the second half of the Brawl of the Wild in Bozeman on Feb. 22.
Griz defeat the Cats in historic 300th meeting
The Grizzlies met state rivals, the Bobcats, in the 300th meeting between the two universities this Saturday night. Montana brought home the win in a 78-64 victory.
The Griz played a strong game, with the Bobcats only leading for 14 seconds the entire game.
More than 7,000 fans came out to support the Grizzlies, nearly filling the stadium. The crowd lended valuable energy and support to the team.
"I love playing in big games, in front of big crowds. I feel like I feed off of that and it just gives me more energy." University of Montana forward Kyle Owens said.
This is the 18th time Montana has beat Montana State in the past 19 games between the two rivals. The game marked the end of the three-game winning streak Montana state had coming into the night.
The Grizzlies now sit at 11-10 in the season and 5-5 in the Big Sky conference, while the Bobcats rank 12-10 in the season and 8-3 in the conference.
Montana State is ranked ninth nationally for 3-point defense. However, the Griz found a way to work around the tough defense, shooting .500 from the floor. This makes Montana the first Big Sky school to make half of its shots against the Bobcats.
Montana started strong, making its first five shot attempts and getting a 13-5 lead at just 3:14. The Grizzlies also made 10 three-pointers in the first half. Overall, the Griz made 11 of 19 3-point attempts.
Montana’s defense played a hard game as well.
"Thirty-eight percent from the floor is huge, and that's how you win games. Offense keeps you in the game, but you don't win if you don't defend," head coach Travis DeCuire said.
The Griz will play again against Eastern Washington on Feb. 6. The second half of the Brawl of the Wild will take place in Bozeman on Feb. 22.