MOSCOW, Idaho -- No overtime necessary this time.
Montana made its trip to the Palouse count this season, downing Idaho 70-57 in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday night at the Cowan Spectrum.
The last time the Griz came to Moscow the Vandals took a double-overtime win two years ago. Montana (2-1 in the Big Sky, 7-9 overall) made sure it wouldn’t be as dramatic this time around.
Ahmaad Rorie led four Grizzlies in double figures with 19 points. Michael Oguine and Brandon Gfeller added 14 apiece and Bobby Moorehead chipped in 10.
Victor Sanders led Idaho (0-2, 5-8) with 20 points.
“We were overdue,” Griz coach Travis DeCuire said of the balanced scoring. “We’ve had some guys close to that, some games with guys with nine, nine, eight where guys are one shot away. It was important for us to get guys going. (Oguine) got his at the free-throw line and I’m fine with that. It was good to get Gfeller going. A more balanced attack is important for us. And knowing that we can have another guy in double figures when Walter (Wright) doesn’t have a good night is huge. … I knew other guys were capable.”
The Griz will shoot for the sweep of the road trip when they take on Eastern Wasghington on Saturday at 2 p.m. MST.
Montana led by 10 at halftime and maintained that lead until the Vandals cut the gap to 38-32 with 14:04 to play. Arkadiy Mkrtychyan converted a three-point play to get Idaho within six.
The Vandals were still within six at 45-39 on a dunk by Ty Egbert.
But Gfeller, from nearby Colfax, Washington, hit one of his four treys, Oguine came up with a steal and Gfeller connected again for a 51-39 Griz lead with 8:53 to play.
Gfeller, a senior, made his first start of the season in place of freshman Sayeed Pridgett.
“I’ve been having a hard time getting him into the rotation the way I want him in the rotation,” DeCuire said of Gfeller. “I thought I needed to balance the floor a little bit with more shooters to start games. I just thought it made sense against a team you know is going to zone you 75 percent of the game that it would be the best time to have him in. He’s been shooting the ball well.”
Idaho got within nine on a couple of occasions, but could get no closer as the Griz made 18 of 24 free throws to keep the Vandals at bay.
Montana harassed the Vandals into 20 turnovers, which the Griz turned into 21 points. The Griz shot 62 percent from the field in the second half while holding Idaho to 34 percent for the game.
“Our defense is forcing a lot of turnovers, mostly being in the right spot,” DeCuire said. “Our pressure we knew would wear them down whether we trapped or not.”
Montana had just six turnovers; no player had more than one. The Griz have turned the ball over just seven times in their last two games.
“We had two at halftime and two were offensive fouls,” DeCuire said. “They are a very physical team and we wanted to match their physicality. It forced the whistle a little bit.”
The Griz led by as many as 12 points in the first half behind 11 points from Rorie.
Montana scored the first eight points of the game on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers from Gfeller and Oguine.
Pat Ingram’s put-back brought the Vandals within two at 10-8, before Rorie responded with a 3-pointer. His second trey gave the Griz a 16-8 lead.
The Grizzlies’ lead reached double digits on a floater in the lane by Pridgett.
Montana’s biggest lead of the first half came at 29-17 when Bobby Moorehead hit a 3-pointer with 5:11 to play before halftime. The teams traded baskets until intermission.
The Griz limited the Vandals to 30-percent shooting in the first half, 17 percent from beyond the arc. Montana owned a 7-0 edge in points off of nine Idaho turnovers.
NOTES: Senior guard Mario Dunn, who DeCuire described as banged up, did not suit up. … Oguine added nine rebounds to his 14 points. … Sanders had five of Idaho’s 20 turnovers. … No other Vandal reached double digits in scoring. … The Griz had eight steals to zero for Idaho. Jack Lopez came up with three of those thefts.