|Montana outlasts Idaho|
MISSOULA, Mont. – The Idaho men’s basketball team erased an eight-point halftime deficit to briefly take a second-half lead, but Montana controlled the game down the stretch and took a 69-58 win in Missoula on Wednesday night.
Connor Hill led Idaho’s second-half charge, scoring 19 of his 24 points after the break and giving Idaho the lead on three separate occasions in the second half, but it wasn’t enough, as the Vandals fall to 4-6 on the season while Montana improves to 2-5.
The Vandals shot just 37.3 percent from the field in the game, going 22-of-59, but converted just 7-of-18 free throws (38.9 percent). Meanwhile, the Griz hit 21-of-48 shots (43.8 percent) in the game and 50.0 percent (9-of-18) from 3-point range.
The biggest swing of events in the game came with less than three and a half minutes to play. After a Seck layup to make it a 59-56 Montana lead, UM’s Kareem Jamar hit a 3-pointer on the other end to make it a six point, 62-56 lead. Joe Kammerer got a look at a point-blank layup that could have potentially cut it to a four-point game, but the shot didn’t fall, and the Griz again connected on a 3-pointer on the other end, giving Montana a nine-point advantage with less than three minutes to play. That lead ballooned to as many as 12 points before the final 11-point margin.
“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to, that was the bottom line tonight,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We tied it up with about six minutes to play, and just can’t finish the job. We get the game how we want it and we don’t finish it like we need to. We miss some easy inside shots. If you’re going to win on the road you can’t shoot 7-for-16 at the free throw line. The bottom line is we didn’t do what we needed to do to finish this basketball game.”
Bira Seck led Idaho with a career-high 13 rebounds and the Vandals owned a 39-34 rebounding advantage and 19-7 advantage in second-chance points.
“Seck was really active around the glass, five offensive rebounds was huge,” Verlin said. “He definitely worked his tail off and Connor got some shots against that zone and knocked down a few of them. Those two guys had great individual performances.”
Stephen Madison fouled out with nine points and five rebounds, and he scored all but one of his points in the first half. Seck added 11 points for his first career double-double.
The Vandals trailed 34-26 at halftime after Montana connected on 6-of-11 first-half 3s while Idaho shot just 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from the field. Idaho led by three on two occasions in the early going before the Griz used an 11-0 run to take a lead as large as nine at 16-7. The Vandals cut that to just one at 24-23 before UM closed the half on a 10-3 run.
Idaho will get another shot at the Griz when Montana makes a return trip to Moscow on Dec. 28 with a 1 p.m. tipoff. The Vandals stay on the road until that game with a trip to play Portland State on Dec. 14, a game against Idaho State in Boise’s CenturyLink Arena on Dec. 20 and a visit to CSU Northridge on Dec. 22.