MISSOULA, Mont. -- Montana's Jordan Gregory scored a game-high 21 points and the Grizzlies used a late 10-2 run to eventually defeat Sacramento State, 63-52, in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at Dahlberg Arena.
The outcome had major Big Sky Tournament implications for Sacramento State (14-14, 8-11) as the Hornets still cling to their playoff hopes. Sacramento State will play its final regular season game on Saturday afternoon at Montana State. In fact, the entire league's final day of the regular season will come Saturday, and four spots have now been clinched for the seven-team field. Montana, Weber State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado have all clinched a spot.
That means there is a five-team race for the final three spots between Montana State (9-10), Sacramento State (8-11), Northern Arizona (8-11), Southern Utah (8-11) and Eastern Washington (7-12). Below are the tiebreaker scenarios that would get the Hornets into the Big Sky Tournament:
- With a win on Saturday, Sacramento State would qualify for the tournament as either the 5, 6 or 7 seed.
- With a loss on Saturday, Sacramento State would need a Southern Utah loss at North Dakota AND a Northern Arizona win at Montana
Sacramento State is attempting to claim a spot in the Big Sky Tournament field for the first time the 2005-06 season. In addition, the Hornets are attempting to finish a season above the .500 mark for the first time in the Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Should the Hornets clinch a spot in the Big Sky Tournament, they would play a quarterfinal game one week from today in either Missoula, Mont., or Ogden, Utah.
With so much at stake, the Hornets hung with Montana (22-6, 18-1) the majority of the evening, trailing by seven points or less the first 17:20 of the second half. In fact, it was a layup with 4:12 remaining that got the Hornets within, 47-44. However, Montana immediately responded with what turned out to be the game-clinching 10-2 run over the next two and a half minutes to take a 57-46 lead with 1:43 to play. During the Montana spurt, the Grizzlies scored on four straight possessions, including three-pointers from Kevin Henderson and Mike Weisner.
The Hornets would get no closer than within seven points of the Griz lead the rest of the way. The 11-point win for Montana also happened to be its largest lead of the night.
Sacramento State, which never led in the game, shot 35.8 percent (19-53) from the field, 17.6 percent (3-17) from the three-point line and 68.8 percent (11-16) from the free throw line. In addition, the Hornets were outrebounded by a 35-27 margin. Sacramento State kept itself in the game by forcing Montana into 15 turnovers, and outscoring the Grizzlies by a 14-9 margin in points off miscues.
Conversely, Montana shot well from the field (.465, 20-for-43), three-point line (.412, 7-for-17) and free throw line (.941, 16-for-17).
Sacramento State had three players score in double figures, comprised of Dickson (15 points), (11 points) and (10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and three steals). Salley is now averaging 11.0 points over his last three games after averaging 0.8 points during his first 22 games of the season. added seven points and a team-high five rebounds, and point guard had six points, four rebounds and four assists in a game-high 38 minutes.
For Montana, Gregory scored 10 points in the first half and 11 more in the second half while finishing 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-7 from the three-point line and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Joining Gregory in double figures for the Grizzlies was Kareem Jamar, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, although he did have seven turnovers. Spencer Coleman added seven points and nine rebounds, and Andy Martin had four points, three blocks and six rebounds.