Montana guard Mike Oguine was going to tough it out.
The 6-foot-2 junior went done to the ground as he banged knees with a defender, but he knew he couldn't pass up a 1-and-1 free-throw situation with 5.2 seconds left and the Griz down 64-62. Had he come out, Washington's coach could've chosen which Griz would attempt the free throws.
He made the first but missed the second, Washington's Matisse Thybulle made two free throws at the other end, and the Griz (7-5) closed non-conference play with a 66-63 loss in the Seattle homecoming of six players and coaches.
"I told him, ‘You got to shoot these, man,’" Griz head coach Travis DeCuire told KGVO radio. "He said, ‘I got you coach.’ It’s kind of hard to shoot free throws when you get knee to knee; you can’t use your leg. But, we got to make those. It’s hard to be in rhythm when you got a guy like him that attacks the rim, and those are the only free throws he took all night."
Free throws made a big difference, and it wasn't just that sequence to close the game. The Griz didn’t attempt a free throw until there was 11:39 to play; they finished 4 of 6. On the other hand, the Huskies were 17 of 21 at the charity stripe, including 10 of 14 in the second half.
Montana trailed by 12 points in the first half, led by three points early in the second half and fell behind by as many as nine after that. Forward Jamar Akoh scored to give the Griz a 62-61 advantage with 4:16 to play, but they surrendered the lead on a Jaylen Nowell jumper with 3:05 left.
Oguine had a basket to take the lead waved off because of an offensive foul with 1:13 left, and Montana missed its last five field goals to close the game. The Griz finished with 67 attempts to Washington's 51.
"We stuck together," DeCuire said. "The conversation in the huddle was do the right things, do the right things, do the right things. When we do the right things, we’re a better basketball team than them. (That's) move the ball, get it to the high post, share, don’t worry about who gets the shot."
Griz guard Ahmaad Rorie, a Tacoma native, scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Akoh added 17 points and seven rebounds. Wing Bobby Moorehead, from Tacoma, chipped in 14 points.
Montana held Washington, which came in averaging 81.8 points per game, to a season-low 66 points. Nowell led Washington with 13 points, and Hameir Wright added 11 off the bench. All seven Huskies who played scored eight or more points.
The Griz scored 24 points off of 18 turnovers and outrebounded Washington 41-27, including 20-6 on the offensive glass to stay in the game. They turned the ball over 20 times themselves, which led to 20 Washington points.
"I see signs of what we’re capable of, the potential of our group," DeCuire said. "We’ve figured out a rotation that will be good for us. I’m excited about what’s in front of us."
The Griz held a brief 2-0 lead and were tied 6-6 before they gave up a 10-0 run. They missed 10 straight field-goal attempts as they struggled with the zone. Oguine ended the scoreless drought of 5:39 with a dunk on an inbound pass.
Montana trailed as many as 12 points, 20-8. Down 26-17, the Griz played more patiently and retook the lead at 27-26 as part of a 12-0 run that included two 3-pointers from Moorehead and a pair of Akoh layups. They turned the ball over 11 times in the first half but just once in the final 5:11 of the half.
Moorehead made his third 3-pointer to give the Griz a 32-31 lead before Nowell hit a jumper in the final second to put Montana down 33-32 at the break. The Griz scored 18 points off of 12 turnovers to remain in the game despite shooting just 37.8 percent, having nine shots blocked and not getting to the free-throw line.
The Griz opened the second half on a 4-0 run and led 36-33 before Washington went on a 9-0 run. They trailed 51-42, and Sayeed Pridgett scored a put-back and a basket in transition to get the Griz within 54-52 with 8:41 to play.
Akoh and Rorie made back-to-back layups to pull them within 61-60 with 5:03 to play. Akoh followed a Rorie miss to give Montana a 62-61 lead, its last lead of the game.
"It was fun," said DeCuire, a Seattle native. "I enjoyed it. A lot of friends, a lot of familiar faces. Always enjoy that. I just would’ve liked a fair shake."