The Montana men’s basketball team left Pittsburgh feeling 100.
In the 100th career game for senior Fabijan Krslovic and head coach Travis DeCuire, the Griz (2-0) knocked off the Pitt Panthers, 83-78, in overtime on Monday at the Petersen Events Center.
It’s the Grizzlies' first win against a Power 5 team since Oregon State on Dec. 15, 2010, and their first win over an ACC team since 1966 against Florida State. They had entered with a 0-9 mark against Power 5 teams under DeCuire. It's also Montana's first 2-0 start since 2009-10 under then-head coach Wayne Tinkle.
“We say every day’s a great day to be a Griz, but some of them are a little more special,” DeCuire told KGVO 98.3 FM after the game. “... We made mistakes down the stretch. We hurt ourselves on a couple things. I’d like to have a timeout or two back. But what we didn’t do is give up. We fought to the end. It was time for us to get over the hump with some of these. We gave some away. We let some teams — Gonzaga, Cal — slip away. My guys weren’t willing to let that happen tonight.”
Montana’s guards and wings led the way for the second straight game. The Griz finished with 30 points off of 19 Pitt turnovers, while the Panthers had just six points off of 15 Montana turnovers.
Junior Mike Oguine attacked the rim early, made 3-pointers late and scored a career-high 29 points in front of 3,102 fans one game after shooting 2 of 9 in the season-opener. The 6-foot-2 guard filled up the stat sheet with six rebounds and five assists in 44 minutes. He guarded Marcus Carr and helped hold the star freshman to eight points on 1-of-9 shooting.
“Mike’s one of those guys when he’s mad he’s better,” DeCuire said. “When we dig in him in practice, he takes practice over. He came into this game a little emotional. He had some things that he was upset with about Pitt. Kids, they want to be recruited at the high level, and sometimes you might think that you have an opportunity and then it doesn’t work out. He had something to prove. He was a man on a mission.”
The Griz were up 73-71 and appeared to have the game won in the final minute of regulation. They were called for a 10-second violation while bringing the ball up the court with 30 seconds left as DeCuire and Rorie were talking to set up a play. DeCuire took blame for the violation and turnover.
Pitt’s Shamiel Stevenson, who led the Panthers with 19 points, scored off the ensuing inbound with 27 seconds to play, and Oguine missed a 3-pointer as the game went to overtime.
“What we talked about was mental, physical toughness,” DeCuire said. “‘Look, so what, we’re here. Where’s all that emotion we had earlier in the game. Where’s that emotion we had 35 seconds ago. Let’s go. Let’s make it happen. We can quit or we can fight.’ Everybody was fired up about fighting.”
Ahmaad Rorie scored 18 points, including five in overtime, and had five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 44 minutes. Bobby Moorehead scored 14 points and had six rebounds in 42 minutes.
Stuffing the stat sheet were Sayeed Pridgett and Fabijan Krslovic. Pridgett put in 12 points, all of which came in the second half and overtime, and had eight rebounds and three blocks. Krslovic had nine rebounds, six points, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
In overtime, Rorie and Pitt’s Ryan Luther traded baskets, and Pridgett sunk a jumper that put the Griz ahead for good, 79-77, with 1:11 to play. Pitt shot 22.2 percent in overtime.
After Stevenson made a free throw, Rorie nailed two free throws with 22 seconds to play to push the lead to 81-78. They were his first two free-throw attempts of the game. Moorehead and Pridgett added free throws to seal the win.
The Griz came out unfazed by the ACC environment and led 37-35 at the half. They got to the rim effortlessly, Pitt gave up the baseline on multiple occasions and Montana built a 17-14 lead with 16 points in the paint.
Pitt went on a 10-0 run to go up 24-17. Down 28-21, the Griz hit four of six 3-pointers after starting 0-of-7. Ahmaad Rorie had a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Griz within 28-27, and Bobby Moorehead hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Montana ahead 33-32 with two minutes left in the half. Oguine added two baskets on drives to the rim and had 13 first-half points as Montana led at the intermission.
The Griz build their biggest lead at 48-41 on a Bobby Moorehead 3-pointer. They then missed their next seven field goals, and Pitt pulled within 48-47.
The teams traded leads, and Montana went up 61-60 on Rorie's dunk and Oguine’s steal and dunk.
Stevenson hit a 3-pointer that put Montana in its largest hole of the second half, 67-63 with 4:36 to play. Oguine made two free throws and followed a Ryan Luther dunk with back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Griz ahead 71-69 with 2:16 to play.
With the game tied 71-71, Oguine made two free throws with 59 seconds left to give Montana the lead before the half-court violation.
“The 10-second count got him even more upset,” DeCuire said of Oguine. “That’s when he buckled down defensively and he did some things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He completely took Carr out.
“… One thing about Mike is that if he feels like it’s time to put everybody on his back, he’s going to get it done. He carried us early because we couldn’t get good shots early. He just said everybody get out of the way and I’ll go, and we let him go.”