The University of Montana men’s basketball team struggled to overcome Montana State-Northern in the home opener Sunday, Nov. 10, but managed to beat MSU 64-50.
The Griz came into the game searching for a win after losing their first game of the season to Stanford, 62-73. Only eight out of the 15 players listed on UM’s active roster played in the game.
MSU-Northern started the game shooting lights out by making three of its first five 3-point attempts and taking a 25-12 lead over UM. Senior Sayeed Pridgett scored 8 of UM’s first 12 points in the match. Pridgett finished with a game-high 30 points, along with 4 assists for the Griz.
MSU-Northern continued its hot start by expanding its lead to 32-19 over UM with four minutes left in the first half. But dunks from Kendal Manuel and Derrick Carter-Hollinger helped narrow MSU-Northern’s lead to 32-30 at halftime. Manuel finished with 8 points while Carter-Hollinger finished with 6 points.
After a tough first half, Montana improved its game. Pridgett scored 12 points, and UM took a 51-44 lead.
MSU-Northern responded with a quick 3-pointer after Pridgett’s scoring outburst, but UM retained a 55-47 lead with seven minutes left in the game.
Pridgett gave UM its first double-digit lead of the game when he made two free throws to make the score 60-50. Montana shot 80% from the free throw line during the game.
After only two more scores from the Griz, freshman Josh Vazquez dribbled the clock out to seal a UM victory, 64-50.
“Practice will be a lot better. The energy around the team will be a lot better, so I find it something that we really needed,” said Pridgett about his team’s first win.
MSU-Northern was led in scoring by senior Kavon Bey, who scored 15 points. After making 52% of its shots in the first half, MSU-Northern only made 26% of its shots in the second half.
“We were just better defensively in the second half, and that allowed us to get more opportunities for high-percentage shots,” said head coach Travis DeCuire after the game.
Montana improved to 1-1 for the season after the win. Overall, UM is 17-3 in home openers, and DeCuire is 5-1 with the team in home openers. DeCuire is also 10-0 against non-Division I teams (MSU-Northern is NAIA).
Montana’s all-time record against MSU-Northern is 4-0. The Griz’s next game will be against Arkansas on the road on Nov. 16. The Griz will return home to play Montana Tech on Nov. 18.