Junior Sayeed Pridgett scored a career-high 29 points and Montana recovered from two straight conference losses to dominate Northern Colorado 88-64 at the Bank of Colorado Arena in Greeley on Saturday afternoon.
Pridgett finished the game 11-for-13 from the field, including converting all four of his 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-5 Oakland native scored the team’s first 11 points. The win handed Northern Colorado its first loss in Big Sky Conference play while Montana improved to 11-6 overall and 4-2 in league.
“He was locked in,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire told KGVO about Pridgett. “One of the things for us is we have a lot of guys who can score and sometimes if you don’t get shots for long stretches you can get uncomfortable and antsy and take bad shots. Today was the first time all five guys were willing to just let the ball go where it needed to go and whoever was open was going to get a good shot and Sayeed got hot.
“That’s what these guys need to understand is someone, one of you, will get hot and sometimes maybe more than one, but when that person does, let them go.”
Redshirt seniors Ahmaad Rorie and Jamar Akoh scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, while senior Michael Oguine added 11 for the Griz. Akoh added eight rebounds while Rorie dished four assists and Oguine contributed two blocks.
Montana’s offense was scorching from the beginning. The Griz finished shooting at a 56.9 percent clip from the field and 66.7 percent (8-for-12) from beyond the arc. Montana was 5-for-5 from three in the first half.
“Team effort,” DeCuire told KGVO. “As a staff probably our best preparation even though it was a quick turnaround. As a group, our guys were focused because we made a couple of changes on both sides of the ball with not a lot of time. I think they prepared for some things that they didn’t see.
“The biggest thing for us was our mental preparation. I thought the guys were focused on one thing and that was a big help.”
UNC senior Jordan Davis came into the game ranked sixth in the country in scoring at 25.2 points per game. Montana senior Bobby Moorehead was tasked with guarding Davis for the majority of the contest and he did not disappoint. Davis came into the game having scored more than 25 points in his previous five games, but on Saturday was held to 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Moorehead, at 6-foot-7, used his length to contest and bother Davis while Oguine also used his quickness when matched up with Davis defensively.
When Davis would drive, Akoh was there to meet him and alter shots. But Moorehead did most of the work on Davis, who was only 1-for-3 from deep. Moorehead finished with eight points and eight rebounds as well.
UNC averaged 81.6 points per game coming in. UM held UNC to 42.3 percent shooting and 15.4 percent from deep. The Griz out-rebounded the Bears 34-24 and forced 12 turnovers while only turning it over nine times themselves.
“We knew defensively we were capable of doing that against good teams,” DeCuire said. “It was kind of similar to the South Dakota State game a little bit.”
And similar to South Dakota State, the Grizzlies came in looking to make a statement and did just that.
“On the offensive end, I was more impressed by the way that guys shared and moved the ball,” DeCuire said. “We went away from sets and went more to motion and we’ve never really been a motion team, that’s usually been secondary, so we had to trust each other and that was our No. 1 key offensively for winning this game was trusting that the next guy’s going to make the right decision and make the right play, and we did that.”
From start to finish Montana took care of business against UNC. A 17-3 run in the first half distanced the Griz from the Bears as they went into the break up 42-28. Consistency was the key as Montana came out of the break and never looked back.
DeCuire said he felt the team needed to make a statement.
“We had to find a way to get confidence,” DeCuire said. “I had a conversation with Jamar and I felt a lot of our team’s confidence comes from him and some of it comes from coaches. He felt I could give the team more confidence and I thought he could (too) and we both went out and did that.
“He affected the game without scoring the ball and without going out and getting 15 rebounds.”
Montana will get a week off before taking on the Idaho Vandals on the road on Saturday.