Montana v Whitworth009.JPG

Montana's Ahmaad Rories works his way into the paint past Whitworth's Jordan Lester (10).

MISSOULA — Ahmaad Rorie needed to see the ball go through the hoop.

The redshirt junior guard was coming off a 4-point, 1-of-12 shooting performance in a 70-54 loss to Stanford on Wednesday. The 8.3-percent shooting clip was the Oregon transfer’s second-worst field-goal percentage in a Griz jersey and the worst in which he took more than four shots.

He replayed the game in his head and evaluated his shot selection — zero layup attempts — the night of the game and the next day, but he still needed to get to the gym. So before he went to class on Friday, he and head coach Travis DeCuire met up for a one-on-one shooting session in the morning.

"I wanted to get shots up, get my rhythm back," Rorie said. "I feel I did that, and I’m ready to grow from here.

"He just wants me to be me. That’s clear my head, don’t worry about anything, go out there and play basketball the way I know I can play, have no distractions, be fired up and be the best basketball player I can be.

He also talked and texted with assistant coaches and his brother ahead of Sunday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Dahlberg Arena. He’s looking to bounce back in a big way, something he’s proven before that he can do.

“One thing I’m going to do is keep a clear head going into games,” Rorie said. “When the lights come on, that’s my happy place. I have to lock in and be ready to play.”

High expectations

A preseason Big Sky all-conference honoree, Rorie is averaging a team-high 16.7 points and has been the team’s leading scorer in five of the seven games.

However, his performance against Stanford has made his low shooting percentage look worse. He shot 41.7 percent (5 of 12) on 3-pointers in his first two games but has made 22.2 percent (8 of 36) in the past five.

On the season, he’s shooting 37.6 percent from the field; he shot 44.9 last year. He’s connecting on 27.1 percent of 3-pointers; he shot 38.4 last season.

“He’s been in a slump, and we’re trying to get him confidence, let him know we still have confidence in him as a shooter,” DeCuire said. “I reminded him there’s nothing wrong with his shot. He has a lot on his shoulders with high expectations. Sometimes when you have that, you press. I wanted to make sure his head was in the right place. He’s fine.”

DeCuire said he felt Rorie was being too passive against Stanford and passed up open shots. He also doesn’t want Rorie to be too aggressive and force up 20 shots of contested 3-pointers and jumpers.

Excluding the Stanford game, Rorie’s two best shooting percentages came in the two games that he attempted his fewest field goals. He scored 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting (46.7 percent) against Pitt and recorded 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting (46.2 percent) against Carroll.

“Ahmaad gets in the gym more than anyone and works on his shot,” junior guard Mike Oguine said. “He’s really fine-tuned that. I’m not worried. He can make these shots in his sleep. He has the utmost confidence in himself.”

As the point guard, he has to balance being selective with high-percentage shots and seeing the court to set up easy baskets for teammates.

He’s doing the latter by contributing a team-high 4.1 assists, an improving number. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.43 (10 to 7) in the first three games and 2.38 (19 to 8) in the past four.

Bouncing back

Rorie has bounced back in a big way each game after he was held to single-digit scoring at Montana. He had six points against South Dakota last year and put up 21 against Milwaukee the next game.

He scored seven against Wyoming and came back with 19 points against Oregon.

He had two points on 0-of-4 shooting against Southern Utah and followed that up with 14 points two days later against Northern Arizona.

In all eight games that he scored 12 or fewer points, he tallied 14 or more the next game with an average of 20 points.

“I know the confidence I have in myself and in my game,” Rorie said. “It’s all about that bounce back. I was hard on myself, but I wasn’t beating myself up about it.”

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