MISSOULA — Looking for its second win of the season, Montana returns to Dahlberg Arena on Monday evening for a matchup with Texas Southern of the Southwest Athletic Conference.
Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. as the Grizzlies look for their first win against a Division-I opponent this season. Montana (1-4) has played three high-major squads with a combined record of 15-1 and has had the fifth-toughest schedule in the country so far according to KenPom.com and third-toughest according to the Jeff Sagarin rankings.
Montana is coming off a 73-56 loss to Washington, while Texas Southern (1-4) won its first game of the season on Saturday afternoon against Northern Kentucky. Despite the loss, the Grizzlies showed some leaps forward against the Huskies, who will likely be one of the toughest defenses Montana faces this season.
“I think the conversation in the locker room was more, if we bring this energy every night, we will be happier with where we’re sitting over a period of time,” Grizzlies head coach Travis DeCuire told KGVO following Friday’s game against Washington. “We need to state it and we need to show that we can play at a level of competition every night and we need to bring this effort for 40 minutes. If we can get to the point where we can do that, take care of the ball, we’ll start to like where we’re at.”
Montana took a 32-31 lead over Washington early in the second half on a Sayeed Pridgett 3-point shot and were within three possessions much of the final 20 minutes. Pridgett and Washington’s Jaden McDaniels were called for a double technical six minutes into the second half, which was a major turning point in the game.
McDaniels shoved a ball into Pridgett’s chest after he scored and both parties were tagged with a call.
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“They were getting frustrated,” DeCuire told KGVO. “They started getting downhill in transition … frustration sets in on them and we react to it with a double technical and I feel if we don’t react to it, we got them right where we want them.”
The Grizzlies will have a chance to respond against an opponent they should match up with well. Texas Southern turns the ball over at a high rate, does not rebound particularly well and has had trouble finding good shots.
Montana’s defense has been fairly stout this year and especially so from behind the arc, where its opponents have converted just 29.3 percent of their shots so far. The Tigers are only shooting 36.6 percent from the field and have made just 23 of their 81 3-point attempts through five games.
Texas Southern is led in scoring by 5-foot-10 senior guard Tyrik Armstrong (14.2 points per game), who is the only player to have started all five games for the Tigers.
Pridgett and Kendal Manuel are the lone Grizzlies with double-digit scoring averages, scoring 17.4 and 13.4 per game, respectively. Pridgett is either leading or tied for the team lead in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and minutes.
Monday’s game will be televised on SWX Montana.