The University of Montana basketball team lost 72-74 to Montana Tech Monday Nov. 18, after tying 36-36 in the first half.
Before playing Montana Tech, the UM basketball team’s head coach, Travis DeCuire, was 10-0 against non-Division I (DI) teams. When UM jumped out to an early 7-2 lead against non-DI Montana Tech, it seemed like this pattern of dominance would continue.
But Montana Tech kept fighting, tying the score up 15-15 as the first half clock wound down. Senior Kendal Manuel and junior Timmy Falls gave UM its biggest lead of the game, 30-25, thanks to back-to back dunks. Falls finished with 11 points in the game and Manuel scored the most of any UM player with 22 points.
“I thought he was better defensively,” said DeCuire about Manuel’s performance. “Typically when you’re good on the other side of the ball you start having some luck on the offensive end.”
Montana Tech’s Sindou Diallo drained back-to-back 3-pointers after UM’s scoring outburst to help tie up the game 36-36 at halftime. Diallo, a junior at Montana Tech, scored 24 points in the game and made four 3-pointers. UM’s entire team only hit four 3-pointers during the game.
UM was only able to make 50% of its free throws, but managed to jump out to a 51-48 lead after halftime. UM quickly responded with another scorning run that included a savvy post move by Kyle Owens to take a dominant 59-52 lead over Montana Tech.
Owens finished with 17 points in the game and made 10 out of 10 free throw attempts.
Montana Tech narrowed UM’s lead to 63-62 with four minutes left in the game, thanks to back-to-back shots by Drew Huse. Huse scored 7 points for Montana Tech.
After Montana Tech failed to make any free throws in the entire first half, it managed to make 66% of its free throws in the second half. This improvement helped it narrow UM’s lead to 64-65.
Falls stole the ball from Montana Tech and then passed it to Manuel with two minutes left in the game, leading to some loud cheers from Griz fans in Dahlberg Arena.
The dunk was the last of UM’s highlights for the night as Montana Tech hit two crunch-time 3-pointers to take a 73-71 lead.
After Senior Sayeed Pridgett made a free throw for UM, Montana Tech’s lead was cut to only 73-72. Montana Tech then hit a free throw with only seven seconds left in the game, allowing UM to take the last shot.
Pridgett’s shot at the buzzer to avoid the upset from Montana Tech clanked off of the front of the rim. Montana Tech beat UM 74-72. Pridgett finished with 14 points for UM.
The home loss put UM’s overall record on the season to 1-3. The team’s only win was against Montana State-Northern.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got freshmen. They’ve got upperclassmen,” said DeCuire. Four of the eight players that played for UM were freshmen.
“We just treat this like any loss, we just have to bounce back,” DeCuire said.
UM made 53% of its field goals, while Montana Tech only made 46% of their shots. UM only made four 3-pointers to Montana Tech’s 10.
“We had each others’ backs,” said Diallo after the game. “We just kept pushing and pushing.” The junior said that he enjoyed coming to play at UM, adding that it had, “a good atmosphere and good people.”
Montana Tech’s win over UM was its first win against UM since 1945. In 1945, Montana Tech was still called the “Montana School of Mines.”
UM’s next game will be against Washington in Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 22. Washington is currently ranked at No. 25 in the nation in the Associated Press Top 25 basketball team rankings.
UM’s next home game will be against Texas Southern on Nov. 25.