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Panthers prevail: Davis' second-half surge leads Wisconsin-Milwaukee past Griz in barnburner

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Montana men's basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak glanced at the Wisconsin-Milwaukee bench during the first half of the Grizzlies' game against the Panthers on Friday night.

There sat senior guard Boo Davis, the Panthers' leading scorer who was saddled with two fouls.

&#8220You could just tell he was greasing up his slingshot," Krystkowiak said.

Sure enough, Davis scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lift the Panthers past the more-than-game Griz 78-74 in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 7,213.

The game matched two top-20 teams in the Mid-Major poll; the Griz at No. 14 and the Panthers at No. 16. Both teams lived up to their billing.

Each team turned the ball over just 10 times and made half of their shots. Neither team was great at the free-throw line - the Griz missed seven; the Panthers nine - and the Panthers owned a 36-28 edge in rebounding. There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes.

&#8220I told one official when he came over, I said 'It's going to go down to the wire,' " first-year Panthers coach and basketball prophet Rob Jeter said.

The Griz (10-2) took their biggest lead of the game at 67-63 on a driving layup by senior Kevin Criswell with 4:59 to play, igniting Griz fans.

But the Panthers (8-3) responded by scoring the next six points, five by Joah Tucker, who wowed the crowd with a series of acrobatic drives to the basket and finished with 16 points.

Griz sophomore Matt Martin answered with a stop-and-pop 15-footer that knotted the game at 69-69 with 3:40 left.

Montana went back on top 72-69 on a 3-pointer by Criswell, who had three treys on the night and finished with 18 points.

But Davis came right back 10 seconds later and momentarily silenced the crowd with a trey of his own to tie it at 72-72.

The Griz took the lead once again at 74-72 with 2:12 left on a pair of free throws by Virgil Matthews.

Back came Davis with another contested 3-pointer to put the Panthers up for good, 75-74 with 1:52 to play.

&#8220We're seniors out there, we're vets," said Davis, a major player during the Panthers' run to the Sweet 16 last season. &#8220We've been through this a lot of times going to the Sweet 16. It wasn't anything to come out and hit some shots with the crowd hollering."

&#8220He's just so quick, you give him any separation and he's going to knock 'em down," Criswell said. &#8220He got open in our zone and knocked down shots, knocked down big shots."

The Griz had their chances as time wound down. Criswell missed on a drive to the basket with less than a minute to play and his team trailing 76-74. Following a Panther turnover with 18.7 seconds left, Martin launched a deep 3-pointer early in the clock that failed to draw iron.

Davis made sure the Grizzlies' 10-game winning streak was history with a pair of free throws with 7.9 seconds to play.

Krystkowiak would not criticize Martin for the early shot.

&#8220I've seen Matt hit shots from 30 feet," Krystkowiak said of his point guard, who forced the late Panthers turnover by getting a five-second count on his counterpart, Chris Hill. &#8220But before I talk about what Matt was looking for, here's a situation where we have timeouts, so I'm going to kick myself first.

&#8220We have timeouts and I've got to make a decision on the fly. I'm looking out there and there was just as much confusion, if not more, on (the Panthers') faces. I would have preferred to get to the rim, but he's open and he's capable."

Center Adrian Tigert added 15 points for the Panthers, 12 in the first half, but struggled once the Griz switched to a zone defense.

Sophomore Andrew Strait led the Griz with 23 points and six boards. The Big Sky Conference leader in field goal shooting operated with his usual efficiency, making 9-of-13 shots from the field.

&#8220It was a tough game emotionally and physically," said Strait, who might have added to his total if not for late foul trouble. &#8220It was a battle from the beginning to the end. We're going to take a lot of things from it."

The Griz can start to put those lessons to use next week when they host Idaho State (Thursday) and Weber State (Saturday) in Big Sky play. But there's little solace in knowing they're not likely to face a team that good once league play begins.

&#8220League has its eerie ways of making you lose games and have adverse situations," Criswell said. &#8220It's nice to have our first two games at home. We have to tell our young guys that it's a two-month season now."

NOTES: The Panthers outscored the Griz 39-37 in the first half and 39-37 in the second half. … Tyrone Young was the fourth Panther in double-figure scoring with 10. … Matthews had seven points, five rebounds and five assists. Martin finished with nine points and Mike Chavez came off the bench for six points and three boards. … The crowd of 7,213 was the second largest for a men's game since the renovation of Dahlberg Arena. A crowd of 7,332 watched the Griz down Sacramento State 66-59 on Feb. 1, 2003, the night the school honored its mascot Monte.

WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE (78)

Min Fg-A FT-A Reb PF A Pts

f-Tucker 34 5-13 6-9 9 2 2 16

f-Tigert 29 7-9 1-2 7 4 3 15

c-McCoy 26 1-1 2-2 4 2 1 4

g-Hill 35 2-6 2-4 3 3 4 6

g-Davis 20 6-10 3-4 4 3 0 20

Massiah 7 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0

Smith 6 0-3 0-0 1 1 2 0

Pancratz 8 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 0

Hanson 5 1-1 0-0 0 0 1 3

Wimmer 4 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 0

Bendall 7 0-0 1-2 1 0 1 1

Young 14 5-8 0-0 2 1 0 10

Ford 5 1-1 1-2 2 1 0 3

Totals 200 28-56 16-25 34 18 14 78

MONTANA (74)

Min Fg-A FT-A Reb PF A Pts

f-Hasquet 26 2-5 0-1 2 3 0 5

f-Matthews 36 2-7 3-3 5 4 5 7

c-Strait 31 9-13 5-9 6 4 1 23

g-Criswell 28 7-12 1-1 3 4 4 18

g-Martin 31 3-9 1-2 3 2 3 9

Ellis 3 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0

Dlouhy 26 1-5 0-1 3 1 2 2

Chavez 15 2-3 2-2 3 1 1 6

Sharp 4 1-1 2-2 1 1 0 4

Totals 200 27-55 14-21 27 20 16 74

Halftime score: Wisconsin Milwaukee 39, Montana 37.

3-points goals: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 6-19 (Davis 5-7, Hanson 1-1, Smith 0-1, Pancratz 0-1, Tucker 0-2, Wimmer 0-2, Young 0-2, Hill 0-3), Montana 6-19 (Hasquet 1-1, Criswell 3-6, Martin 2-7, Matthews 0-2, Dlouhy 0-3).

Turnovers: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 10 (Hill 3), Montana 10 (Hasquet 2, Matthews 2, Criswell 2).

Steals: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 5 (McCoy 2), Montana 4 (Criswell 2).

Officials: Michael Houston, Chuck Jannelli, Shaun Cather.

Attendance: 7,213.

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