MISSOULA — The Montana men’s basketball team took the floor for the first time since the news earlier in the day that Donaven Dorsey would miss the entire season because of hip injuries.
After a slow start, the Griz rallied together and showcased their defense during a 36-4 run to collar the Saskatchewan Huskies in an 85-44 exhibition win on Monday at Dahlberg Arena.
“We know that Donnie would love to be here with us, even running the suicides during practice, doing drills,” said junior guard Michael Oguine, who scored a game-high 22 points. “He would kill to do that stuff with us, but he can’t do that. So we have to make sure that every possession we’re not taking that for granted, we’re playing hard because things can happen and this opportunity might not always be there. With Donnie, we really kind of used that as motivation.”
Montana’s 36-4 run across the first and second halves allowed the Griz to build a 34-point lead. They used 10 lineups and 13 players during the run that turned a 25-23 lead into a 61-27 advantage.
They held Saskatchewan, who lost leading scorer Lawrence Moore (21.2) to an undisclosed injury in the opening three minutes, to 0-of-18 shooting on field goals for 14:03 during the run. The four points the Griz gave up came on free throws. Saskatchewan shot 25.9 percent for the game.
Playing man-to-man defense, Montana had five of its 12 blocks, forced 11 turnovers and had four steals during the run.
“That was more like what we should do in half-court defense,” Griz head coach Travis DeCuire said. “… Some of (the points we gave up) were from lack of preparation. The back screens and the rim cuts with the spread court, we didn’t spend time on those things because we didn’t really do a detailed scout for that matter. We addressed some ball screens and some one-on-one play from their point guard, Moore, who ended up getting hurt.
“So it was kind of a mid-game adjustment of how to defend those actions. Once we settled in and defended those things well, I thought we did a better job of getting our bodies in the right places and forcing them to go one on one, sliding our feet and contesting shots.”
The Griz closed the first half on a 23-4 run in the final 6:51 to build a 48-27 lead. The run came after they saw their 19-10 lead trimmed to 25-23 when Saskatchewan outscored them 13-6.
Oguine scored nine of his 14 first-half points during the run. He had quite the sequence when he missed a layup on a lob from out of bounds, got the rebound but missed, and got the rebound again and scored, drawing and converting an and-1.
Oguine put Montana up 33-23 when he stole the ball and threw down a fast break dunk. However, he was called for a technical for hanging on the rim, although he said he hung on because he felt someone underneath him. He added another dunk during the run.
Timmy Falls came off the bench and closed the run with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:57 before Saskatchewan added two free throws.
The Griz scored the first 13 points of the second half to build a 61-27 lead. Jamar Akoh scored five points, and Bobby Moorehead hit his third and final 3-pointer.
Saskatchewan’s streak without a field goal ended with 13:47 remaining in the game when Emmanuel Akintunde scored on a layup on a fast break. The Huskies had missed their first eight field goals to open the half after they missed their final 10 to close the first half.
“It all starts on the defensive end,” Oguine said. “We have something called Grizzly defense. It starts with a stop, and once you get a stop, you score. We call those double bangs. When you start to string together a few double bangs, it really gets us all juiced. You could feel it from the court to the bench to coach Trav. He’s really all for it. That’s something we really like to do. It just keeps us motivated, and we try to see how long we can go without giving up a bucket, and it gets us juiced.”
Notes: The Griz improved to 5-0 in exhibition games under DeCuire. ... Ahmaad Rorie had 11 points and eight assists. ... Jamar Akoh had 11 points and seven rebounds. … Timmy Falls scored 11 points. … Moorehead had nine points on three 3-pointers. … Sayeed Pridgett had nine rebounds and six points. … Kelby Kramer had nine rebounds and six blocks.