Weber State senior guard Jeremy Senglin did what he does best in the final seconds of overtime against the Grizzlies, hitting a step-back three-pointer with less than a second to play to break Montana hearts and give the Wildcats an 84-81 win over the Griz, their first in Missoula since the ’09-’10 season.
In a back and forth game with 11 lead changes and where no team held more than a six-point lead, Weber State (7-6, 2-0 BSC) shot 71 percent from the field in the OT period to hand Montana (6-9, 1-1 BSC) its first loss of the Big Sky season.
The Griz are now 1-5 in games decided by five points or less this season after the Wildcats recovered from a five-point halftime advantage, led by Senglin’s 29 point-10 rebound double-double performance.
“You don’t want to lose confidence after a loss like that. That’s a tough game. But, we have to learn how to finish,” said Montana coach Travis DeCuire.
“For us, we’ve got to get better with every game at defending when it matters most. I thought for most of the game we did a good job, but their percentages continued to increase as the game went on, and to give up 71 percent in overtime was the difference.”
Wright was UM’s leading scorer with 25 points, 14 of which came in the second half, finding success all evening penetrating the lane and going 3-of-5 from behind the arc as well. Rorie was also 3-of-5 from long range and was effective in the paint too, netting 22 points on the day.
Michael Oguine, a 6-2 sophomore guard, was a monster on the boards, elevating for a career-high and game-high 11 rebounds, some of which looked like he was about to hit his shoulder on the rim.
Oguine opened the scoring for Montana with an impressive drive to the lane, finishing with a missed layup, but gathered the rebound, missed another layup, then completed the point by going up again for a tip-in.
The Griz then went on a nearly three-minute scoreless drought, allowing Weber to build a six-point lead before Wright made an immediate impact off the bench, draining a three from the corner on his first touch.
Wright then gave the Griz their first lead of the game at the 12-minute mark, getting a jumper to fall in the paint to go up 14-12.
The ‘Cats then came back and retook the lead after a 7-2 run before Brandon Gfeller did what he does best and drained his first three of the game from the elbow, followed by another three from Jack Lopez to put UM up 24-19.
Jeremy Senglin then went on a six-point scoring run of his own, but Rorie replied with a nine-point streak highlighted by a clutch three that put UM up 33-28.
The highlight of the first half though came from Wright, who dished out his fourth assist of the period, driving the lane, gathering attention from the collapsing Weber defense, and finding Sayeed Pridgett under the hoop for the easy layup. Pridgett added two more free throws before the buzzer, and the Griz took a 41-36 lead into the break.
The ‘Cats went on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 41 early in the second half before Gfeller started another scoring streak for the Griz with a three-pointer from the corner. He finished with a pair of triples against WSU and now needs 27 more to break the school record for career threes.
After more back and forth, Wright caught fire and drained a pair of threes combined with another three from Ahmaad Rorie to give the Griz a 61-59 lead with just over seven minutes to play. Wright scored 10 points during the five-minute stretch, and Rorie added another three as the guards began to take over, with UM’s forwards in foul trouble.
Wright, the Big Sky’s second-best free-throw shooter who entered the game averaging 92 percent from the free-throw line, had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation for UM. The senior was fouled attacking the rim with two seconds on the clock, and the Griz trailing 70-69. But the first shot wouldn’t fall, and Wright tied the game at 70 on the second shot to send it to OT, Montana’s first extra-time game of the year.
Senglin then heated up, sinking a three one minute into the overtime period to put WSU up 75-72.
Lopez, who finished with eight points and tied his career-high of eight rebounds, would answer back with another three for Montana to knot it at 75.
The two Big Sky powerhouses continued to go shot-for-shot, including a pair of layups from Rorie and one from Wright. But Senglin iced the game with the step-back three over the outstretched hand of Oguine to win it for the Wildcats with a half-tick on the clock left to play.
Montana’s challenging Big Sky run continues in the new year as the Griz travel to the Palouse to face Idaho on Jan. 5 in Moscow, followed by Eastern Washington (who beat the Vandals 69-62 on Friday) on Jan. 7.