Montana went toe-to-toe with the Arizona Wildcats on Tuesday, Dec. 22, but a cold stretch late in the game prevented the Grizzlies from pulling off a second consecutive upset over a Pac-12 program.
Arizona (6-1) snapped Montana’s three-game winning streak with a 70-64 win inside the McKale Center.
Montana took a 6-5 lead just more than 2 minutes into the game and over the next 24 minutes, trailed for just 22 seconds. The Grizzlies led by as many as eight points, and held a seven-point halftime lead, 36-29.
After holding Arizona to 33-percent shooting in the first half, however, including 0-for-8 shooting over the final 5 minutes, 49 seconds, the Wildcats came out refocused in the second half, scoring on their first seven possessions.
Arizona took a 45-44 lead at the 11:32 mark, its first lead in more than 21 minutes, but moments later Josh Vazquez tied the game with a big 3-pointer, knotting the score at 49-49. Arizona would respond on the other end of the floor to take a lead it would hold for the remainder of the contest.
Montana went more than 7 minutes down the stretch without a made field goal, shooting 0-for-6 from the 7:54 to 0:35 mark. Despite zero field goals – the Grizzlies did make seven free throws during that period – Montana was still in the game in the final seconds.
Josh Bannan’s layup with 35 seconds to play cut the deficit to 64-60, forcing the Grizzlies to play the foul game. Arizona shot just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line on the night, but went a perfect 6-for-6 over the final 35 seconds, when it counted, allowing the Wildcats to stay in front.
Montana lost for the third time this season when leading for more than 20 minutes. The Grizzlies led for 23:32, compared to 12:06 for Arizona.
Freshman Robby Beasley III, who was playing in his first full game after making his collegiate debut last Friday, was impressive, scoring 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Also in double figures for Montana was sophomore Kyle Owens (13 points on 5-of-8 shooting) and Vazquez (10 points at a 3-of-5 clip).
Montana led for 23:32, compared to 12:06 for Arizona. The Grizzlies led by as many as eight points and didn’t trail for more than 21 consecutive minutes across both halves.
Tuesday marked the third time this season Montana has lost a game after leading for more than 20 minutes.
Arizona entered the game ranked in the top 100 nationally for field-goal shooting, field-goal defense, 3-point shooting and 3-point defense, but was out-shot by the Grizzlies from the floor, from beyond the arc and from the free-throw line.
Montana out-shot Arizona, 43.5 percent to 42.1, but was held to eight made field goals in the second half, after shooting 52.2 percent in the first half.
Arizona entered the game averaging 41.5 rebounds per game (56th nationally) and held a +12.8 rebounding margin (13th). However, Montana was nearly even with a bigger Arizona team on the glass, 35 to 33.
Montana shot 20 of 22 from the free-throw line. Over the past six games, the Grizzlies are shooting .829 (92-of-111), after starting the season .581.
After Arizona scored on its first three possessions to open the game, the Grizzlies built an 8-5 lead by forcing the Wildcats into five consecutive missed shots.
Montana took its first lead at 17:40 (6-5). The Grizzlies trailed for just 22 seconds (12-11) over the game’s next 26 minutes.
Montana held a 36-29 halftime lead after holding Arizona without a made shot over the final 5:49 of the half (0-for-8 shooting).
After struggling immensely on offense down the stretch, the Wildcats came out of the locker room on fire, scoring on their first seven possessions. By 14:10, the game was tied at 44-44, and at the 11:32 mark, the Wildcats took their first lead of the second half (45-44).
Montana went two long stretches in the second half without a made field goal. The Grizzlies shot 0-for-5 with six turnovers during a 7-minute drought (18:17 to 11:06) and shot 0-for-6 between baskets at 7:49 and 0:35.
Arizona shot just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line, but was a perfect 6-for-6 over the game’s final 35 seconds, when Montana’s deficit ranged from four to six points.
Freshman Robby Beasley III led all Grizzlies with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.
The impressive performance came in Beasley’s second career game. The freshman made his collegiate debut last Friday vs. Dickinson State, scoring five points in 11 minutes of action.
Sophomore Kyle Owens scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, in addition to six rebounds. He has been in double figures in all eight games this season.
Sophomore Josh Vazquez scored 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting, before fouling out. Vazquez nailed a big 3-pointer to tie the game at 49-49 with under 10 minutes to play.
Freshman Josh Bannan led Montana for rebounding for the third consecutive game, totaling nine boards, in addition to six points. Over the past three games, Bannan is averaging 11.0 rebounds per game.
Senior Michael Steadman was limited to four points – all coming in the opening 3:10 – but did record eight rebounds in 23 minutes, before fouling out.
Arizona’s top offensive player, Jemarl Baker Jr., was limited to eight points (3-of-8 shooting) despite entering the contest averaging 16.7 points per game on .522 shooting. Baker was held to two points and zero made field goals in the first half.
Montana turned the ball over 19 times (compared to Arizona’s eight giveaways). The Wildcats turned Montana’s mistakes into 14 points off of turnover.
Arizona is college basketball’s ninth-winningest program, winning at a .659 clip. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Arizona is 158-18 (.898) on its home court.
Montana went 3-5 in non-conference play, including a Power-5 win at Washington. The Grizzlies played eight games in 25 days, traveling more than 11,000 miles.