Griz top Cats 83-78 in first Brawl of the Wild of the season

First seen in The Montana Kaimin

A 3-point shot earned a lead for the Cats and chased the Griz off to the locker room at halftime in Bozeman on Saturday night. Things looked grim. Tyler Hall, Montana State’s star shooter, who is the leading scorer in Big Sky Conference history, had already reached his full-game average of 21 points. It looked like, for the second time on Saturday, MSU could walk away with a win in Worthington Arena.

The crowd roared when members of the Montana State football team carried the Brawl of the Wild trophy around the court during a first-half timeout, but while UM’s football team may have broken Griz fans’ hearts this year, Griz basketball would not. The team well-known for its ability to step up in the second half, flipped the script on the Cats and fought through foul trouble to win.

Hall cooled off in the second half, in part to changes to Montana’s defensive strategy. Unable to shoot effectively, he was reduced to occupying Griz defenders and opening passing lanes for his teammates.

Jamar Akoh, a redshirt senior forward for Montana, and Sayeed Pridgett, a junior guard, sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble, but it was the Bobcats who found themselves in foul trouble in the second half. Ahmaad Rorie drew calls and delivered consistently ftom the free-throw line at key points. That’s how he scored the final points of the game, which sealed an 83-78 win for the Griz.

Both Akoh and Pridgett minimized fouls and stayed on the court in the second half, which was the key to the Griz settling back into the team’s normal roles defensively and offensively after a shaky first half without two key players.

Michael Oguine, a senior guard who sat out last week due to a back bruise, scored 17 points. Rorie hit a team-high of 20 points, 6-of-6 free-throws, and grabbed nine rebounds. Despite their strong play, Montana’s top guards couldn’t outscore MSU’s top two scorers, Hall and Harald Frey, who racked up 41 points.

Montana improved its conference record to 8-2—good for first place in the Big Sky—and overall record to 15-6. The Griz are at home next week playing Idaho and Eastern Washington. The Griz-Cat rivalry will come to Missoula on Feb. 23.