OGDEN, Utah – No overtime was needed this time.
Kyle Richardson and DaShaun Wiggins combined for 27 second-half points to propel Portland State past Montana 70-63 in a quarterfinal game of the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball tournament Thursday night at the Dee Events Center.
The loss ended the Grizzlies’ run of two straight league championships – three in four years – and advanced Portland State to the semifinals where the Vikings will face North Dakota on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Regular-season champ Weber State will take on Northern Colorado in the late semifinal. The winners will meet Saturday at 6 p.m. for the championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
The game stayed close for much of the night, as you would expect from teams that played four overtime periods during the regular season, each coming out on top once.
“Congrats to Portland State for finding a way to get it done,” Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said. “I feel bad for our guys. The end is always tough when it hits you in the face.”
The Griz, who finished the season at 17-13, shot better from the field (47 percent to 43 percent), owned a 33-27 rebounding advantage and a 36-30 edge in points in the paint. The one area the Griz couldn’t defend was the free-throw line, where the Vikings cashed in on 26 of 30 attempts on 29 Griz fouls.
The Griz were just 12 of 17 at the line and managed just a single 3-pointer on 10 attempts.
“Offensively, it’s frustrating for the guys,” Tinkle said. “I mean I played the game. We’re driving it in there and – be careful – we weren’t being rewarded. Then we get frustrated and we get a couple of offensive fouls, throwing elbows and forearms. There were delays when we got rhythm going. It was frustrating and I feel for our guys, but we have to learn from it.”
With little to fear from Montana’s low-post game, the Vikings appeared intent on denying the Griz shots from beyond the 3-point line.
“I think part of our game plan is that Gregory is a phenomenal shooter and we didn’t want to leave him open,” Portland State coach Tyler Geving said. “And we switched the on-ball (screens) and that takes away some of the threes. Jamar is just a load. He’s extremely hard to guard. We played the gaps and switched some on-balls and didn’t give up easy baskets. I thought we did a good job of guarding Gregory tonight.”
Jamar led the Griz with 20 points, finishing his career with 1,673 to finish fourth on Montana’s all-time list and 13th on the Big Sky’s. Gregory added 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
“They were playing pressure defense, getting in our face and trying to make it tough for us to get to the hole,” Gregory said. “They wanted to make us uncomfortable. They have an athletic team and they’re pretty good defensively and they got us out of our game plan a little bit.”
Montana’s final lead came at 44-43 on a pair of free throws by Andy Martin with 7:46 to play.
Gary Winston’s floater put the Vikings on top for good at 45-44 just 13 seconds later. Richardson scored a bucket inside, added a free throw and Wiggins hit a runner off glass to give PSU a 50-46 lead with 5:20 to play. Richardson finished with 19 points and Wiggins had 18.
The closest the Griz could get from there was at 52-49 on a bucket and a free throw by Jamar.
“I just didn’t shoot it well tonight,” said Jamar, who was 8 for 18 from the floor. “It sucks when you know you’re supposed to play better when it’s win or go home. That’s what hurts most, that I didn’t play better for my team.”
The Vikings scored the next five points at the line to take a 57-49 lead. The Griz could never recover.
“We felt like we had a little bit of an advantage inside with (Richardson),” Geving said. “The first game (against Montana) he had one shot and two points. It’s really a credit to Kyle how far he’s come because the second time we played them he had 25 points and (12) rebounds.”
It was a tough way for Jamar to end his career. The three-time, first team All-Big Sky player won two tournament MVP awards, was the overall MVP last season, appeared in two NCAA tournaments and was a part of 88 wins in his four seasons at Montana.
“He’s a warrior,” Tinkle said. “He’s won a lot of games in his career at Montana and helped us turn things around. He means a lot to me personally. His legacy will go on at the University of Montana. I love him like a son. He’s given me nothing but great effort and we’re going to sorely miss him.”
Gregory echoed that sentiment.
“Kareem has meant so much to me, not only as a teammate but as a person,” the junior said. “He’s a guy I’ve gotten to be really close with and a guy I really look up to. There are two guys who I’ve played with in my career that I never wanted to disappoint: One is Will Cherry and the other is Kareem. It sucks that we had to go out like we did and that we couldn’t make his last go-round better. He has a lot of good basketball ahead of him and I know he’s going to make all of us proud.”
|PORTLAND STATE (70)|
|Halftime score: Montana 28, Portland State 26.|
|3-point goals: PSU 4-10 (Hall 2-4, G. Winston 1-3, Wiggins 1-1, Douglas 0-2), UM 1-10 (Gregory 1-2, Dunn 0-1, DeShields 0-1, Weisner 0-1, Jamar 0-5).|
|Turnovers: PSU 8 (G. Winston 2, Richardson 2), UM 11 (Jamar 3, Weisner 3).|
|Blocked shots: PSU 2 (Richardson 2), UM 3 (Dunn, Hutchison, Weisner).|
|Steals: PSU 3 (G. Winston, A. Winston, Hall), UM 5 (Jamar 2).|
|Officials: Ruben Ramos, Jon Stigliano, Rob Kuenemann.|