NASSAU, The Bahamas — After a thrilling victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Montana furiously erased a 20-point halftime deficit but fell just short to Georgia Southern 80-77 in the championship game of the Islands of The Bahamas Showcase on Sunday evening.
Montana got off two 3-point shot attempts in the final 13 seconds but couldn’t convert and fell to 4-1 while Georgia Southern improved to 5-0.
Ahmaad Rorie led the way for Montana with 19 points and six assists and Michael Oguine tallied 18.
Montana came out of the gates sluggish and Georgia Southern took advantage, grabbing a double-digit lead five minutes into the contest at 18-7. From the 12:20 mark to 5:30, Georgia Southern outscored UM 18-3 to take a 40-20 lead.
Georgia Southern entered the break leading 51-31 thanks to 60 percent shooting from the field and forcing the Griz into 10 turnovers and 38 percent shooting.
“I told our guys in the locker room that this game reminds me of our game at Georgia State last December,” head coach Travis DeCuire told Bill Schwanke in the Grizzly postgame radio show. “I’m not sure we showed up with enough respect for our opponent and found ourselves in a hole.”
The second half was almost the complete opposite for both teams. Montana opened the second frame on a 10-3 run as Bobby Moorehead knocked down a pair of threes and Sayeed Pridgett finished two layups to make it 54-41. In the first seven minutes, Montana went on an 18-3 run of its own to get within 54-49.
The Griz held Georgia Southern to 1 of 9 shooting to open the second half, but the Eagles found a way to get to the line and continued to keep distance from the Griz. The Eagles extended their lead back to 13 at 73-60 after a layup from Ike Smith.
Montana still found a way to claw its way back, going on a 13-1 run to make it a one-point game, 74-73. Rorie and Oguine combined for 11 points during that run and Bobby Moorehead added a steal and layup to bring the Griz within one with 1:42 left.
“I think when you take winning out of it and say OK, let’s see if we can dig back in this thing and win the first four minutes,” DeCuire said of the comeback. “And we went out there and played with that level of desperation that was missing.”
Georgia State senior Tookie Brown took over from there, scoring six of the team’s final seven points, including a driving layup where he scored and converted the three-point play to make it 79-75.
Donaven Dorsey responded with a layup on the other end for UM and after David-Lee Jones Jr. made one free throw, the Griz came back the other way with a chance to tie it. Moorehead missed the first 3-pointer but Rorie grabbed the offensive board, put up a second chance, but Montae Glenn blocked it, ending the game.
“Right now, and it’s early, we’re not the most disciplined basketball team right now and that’s an issue for us,” DeCuire said. “It’s a measure of concern of mine if we’re going to play at a high level and be a consistent basketball team.
“We got close. We had opportunities to tie the game and we just went rogue too many times. We jumped up and shot threes when we were getting to the rim. Because we were down three, guys were trying to shoot to tie it ... instead of getting to the rim and doing what we were doing.”
Montana finished the game shooting 50 percent (29-58) from the floor and 34.6 percent (9-26) from three. During their second-half push, the Griz shot 59.4 percent and forced Georgia Southern to turn the ball over 11 times while holding the Eagles to 36.8 percent shooting.
“On the defensive end we gambled,” DeCuire said. “We tried to steal the ball. We left shooters to make plays and things like that and when nobody knows you’re going to do those types of things it’s hard for your teammates to react and that cost us the game.”
The Eagles cashed in at the free throw line, making 19 of their 23 chances while UM was 10 for 15 from the line. Montana won the turnover margin 16-18 but was out-rebounded by Georgia Southern, 30-26.
Montana was also without two of its core rotation players. Jamar Akoh has been out indefinitely with a wrist injury while sophomore guard Timmy Falls, who started the previous three games for UM, was out for an undisclosed reason.
The Griz have 10 days off until their next competition when they hit the road to take on Creighton on Nov. 28. After that they host College of Idaho on Dec. 3.
“You learn from losses more than you learn from wins,” DeCuire said. “I thought we had the same issues (on Saturday) and we fought our way back in. I think we just thought we were going to do it again the same way and found ourselves in a deeper hole than (Saturday).”