DES MOINES, Iowa — Not much went Montana’s way on Thursday night.
The Grizzlies struggled from the field in a 74-55 loss to No. 2 seed Michigan inside Wells Fargo Arena, the second consecutive year Montana has been bounced from the tournament by Michigan.
Montana quickly fell behind by double digits, as Big 10 conference tournament runner-up Michigan opened up a 17-6 lead by the under-12-minute TV timeout. From there, the Griz had to play catch up.
“We just got off to a rough start in terms of how we were playing,” admitted Griz head coach Travis DeCuire. “I don’t think we were on the same page offensively. A lot of tough shots. The ball didn’t move. Not very much patience.”
“So a lot of the conversation was playing together, sticking together, staying focused, and trying to score off of our defense a little bit if we can get some stops.”
Several shots in the first few minutes went in-and-out for Montana, and the Grizzlies did not score on consecutive possessions until nearly 15 minutes into the game. Montana only shot 27 percent from the field in the first half.
“These guys fought tonight. We just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket,” said DeCuire. “27% is not good enough in these types of games. Someone is going to have to jump up and make shots. But I credit the Michigan defense. They did what they do. They make it very difficult to get good shots.”
The Michigan lead grew to 15, 25-10, before Montana finally seemed to settle in offensively, but by halftime Michigan still held a double-digit lead, 34-21. Montana trimmed the lead to eight after five quick points by Sayeed Pridgett, but Michigan answered with a 10-0 run to go up 18. The Griz would get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
Michigan’s vaunted defense was as stingy as advertised, holding Montana to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field. The Grizzlies also struggled from downtown, making just 6 of 24 attempts. The Wolverines held Big Sky Conference tournament MVP Ahmaad Rorie to just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
John Beilen’s efficient Michigan offense was on display, too, as the Wolverines knocked in 49 percent of their shots. Although Michigan also struggled from downtown, it got to the line 24 times, sinking 19 of those attempts.
Charles Matthews put on quite a show for Michigan, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Point guard Zavier Simpson added 10 assists, seven rebounds and four points. Four Wolverines starters were in double figures.
Pridgett led Montana with 17 points.
Michigan moves on to the Round of 32 and will face Florida on Saturday after the Gators held off Nevada’s late comeback attempt.