There was a bigger problem for the home team. The T-Birds picked the wrong time to have its worst scoring output of the season, and the end result was another defeat in front of the home crowd.
Sayeed Pridgett scored a game-high 19 points to lead three players in double figures, and the Grizzlies went on a 16-3 run over a seven-minute stretch of the second half to break the game open and hand the Thunderbirds its 10th consecutive loss, 70-55, before a crowd of 1,923 fans.
Senior Race Parsons, playing in his first game since Dec. 10, scored six points in 16 minutes, and his defensive spark was a difference for SUU in the mind of head coach Todd Simon.
“He gives us a veteran floor presence where he can talk and do all the right things. That’s such a different advantage,” Simon said. “You could see the difference in us defensively.”
The T-Birds held Montana (7-5 Big Sky, 12-13 overall) to 39 percent shooting in the first half, but trailed 34-23 at the break. SUU started the second half with a 9-2 run over the first four minutes, but Walter Wright (14 points) kicked the Grizzlies into full growl mode with a jumper. By the time the run was finished, Montana had a 52-35 lead with 8:49 left and would keep it above double figures the rest of the way.
SUU ended up shooting under 40 percent for the game (39.7) and made just 3 of 21 shots from 3-point range.
“We always give up those little runs in the first or second half that we need to overcome,” Parsons said. “That’s what happens with an inexperienced team. It’s something we’ve got to fix, and even if we don’t, we have to learn how to respond to it and come back.”
Fabian Krslovic added 10 points for the Grizzlies to help offset a rough night for leading scorer Ahmad Rorie. Rorie – who was averaging 17 per game – scored just two points in 12 minutes and sat most of the second half after an undisclosed injury.
While Pridgett did his job on offense, the Montana defense held SUU’s Randy Onwuasor, the Big Sky’s leading scorer, to just 16 points, seven below his season average.
The T-Birds were just 6-of-12 from the free-throw line while the Grizzlies made 22-of-26. Montana also enjoyed a 41-30 edge in rebounding.
To cap off the week, SUU’s losing streak reached 11 straight games as Montana State came away with an 83-78 victory. The T-Birds got 32 points from Randy Onwuasor, but couldn’t get over the hump after his jumper put them up 58-57 with 10:52 remaining.
In the battle of the Big Sky’s leading scorers, Tyler Hall (23 points) immediately answered on the next possession with one of his three 3-pointers to put the visitors back in front for good.
Hall got additional help from freshman Harald Frey with 19 points and five triples, and Quinton Everett added 18 with three treys.
The T-Birds committed 15 of their 23 turnovers in the first half and fell behind 44-35 at the break. They shot 54 percent from the floor in the loss and will try to break the losing streak Saturday against Northern Arizona. Tipoff from the Centrum is at 2 p.m.
MONTANA 70, SOUTHERN UTAH 55
Montana 34 36 -- 70
Southern Utah 23 32 -- 55
Montana – Oguine 4, Pridgett 19, Wright 14, Rorie 2, Krslovic 10, Moorehead 5, Lopez 5, Samuelson 8, Gfeller 3. Totals 22-54 22-26 70. 3-pointers – Wright 2, Moorehead 1, Gfeller 1.
Southern Utah – Onwuasor 16, Day 2, Marshall 6, Joyce 10, Parsons 6, McGee 6, Madunic 1, Musoko 2, Holker 6. Totals 23-58 6-12 55. 3-pointers – Onwuasor 1, McGee 2.
Montana State 83, Southern Utah 78