You’d be hard pressed to find a team that has had as many chaotic, manic and wildly hilarious finishes as the Montana Grizzlies have had this season.
Throw in that two players — Cameron Satterwhite and Hunter Clarke — have already transferred out of the program midseason, things have been weird for the Griz so far.
Montana, which was picked to finish second in the Big Sky, entered Monday 0-3 in the conference and had lost all three games in less-than-ideal ways.
The three losses were all decided on the final possession and by a combined four points. Southern Utah knocked off Montana in the first two Big Sky games, winning back to back games via the free-throw line and getting the best of some helpful officials in Cedar City, Utah. Then, last Saturday, Northern Colorado won off a wild shot by star junior Bodie Hume, leaving just around a second left for Montana to miss a heave and, at the time, fall to 0-3 in the Big Sky.
BODIE!!! pic.twitter.com/UJ2tMk18fv— UNC Men's Basketball (@UNC_BearsMBB) January 3, 2021
OK, not a good start for a team that has had a strangle hold of the top of the Big Sky since 2008-09. The Big Sky’s most prominent team, and back-to-back NCAA tourney rep, hasn’t exactly looked the part.
Now, on to Monday.
The Griz were back against Northern Colorado in the double home game series the Big Sky has used this year to mitigate travel and such during the pandemic. The game went about as expected.
There was a boat-load of lead changes and ties — nine ties to be exact — and Hume was doing Hume things like chucking off screens with the slightest of space to get a shot off. Meanwhile, Montana was doing Montana things: mucking up the paint with San Jose State transfer star Michael Steadman. Remember his name for later.
Ultimately the game came down to a very-Montana ending based off the entire season.
Steadman missed a point-blank post hook that would have extended Montana’s lead with under a minute left to two possessions. Instead, Montana led just 53-51. As expected, well kinda, Northern Colorado answered.
Bears big man Kur Jockuch took a feed from Hume off a screen and roll, bounced into a few Montana defenders and was hacked by Steadman from behind. Jockuch — a 40% free-throw shooter — knocked it in, compounding Steadman’s miss with a critical and-1 mistake. Montana looked like it was on its way to another heart-wrenching loss and a disastrous start to conference play.
Things got even more weird.
Montana guard Josh Vasquez drove into the lane on the next possession and had his shot fly over the backboard and out of bounds. Ball to Northern Colorado. Then, Hume forgot you can’t move on the baseline following a review and deadball — and it was a five-second call on top of it — turning the ball right back to Montana under the Griz’s own hoop.
Then, because why not, Griz forward Josh Bannan — who was 4-of-16 shooting for the game before the possession — hit a jumper from the elbow to put Montana up 55-54 with four seconds left on the clock.
Bannan nails a jumper with 4.9 seconds left. Griz lead 55-54. pic.twitter.com/cmWDx9lfw8— Jordan Hansen (@jordyhansen) January 4, 2021
Montana iced the game when Brandon Whitney stole possession right back from Northern Colorado’s Daylen Kountz. The Bears committed two critical and mind-bending turnovers in a span of a few seconds of game clock.
Montana won 56-54, taking its first Big Sky win of the year. Make it four games in the Big Sky decided by a combined score of six. Maybe things will start looking up for the Griz now with not-so-great Northern Arizona on deck next week?