In the end, Montana couldn’t defend the indefensible.
Jeremy Senglin hit a step-back, fall-away 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds to play in overtime to lift Weber State to an 84-81 win over the Griz in a thrilling back-and-forth Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena.
Michael Oguine, arguably Montana’s best defender, had a hand in Senglin’s face as the Wildcats’ senior let the shot fly for the last few of his game-high 29 points.
Senglin had eight of the Wildcats’ 14 points in the 5-minute extra session.
“We’ve seen that happen a few times where he gets going and he’s pretty hard to guard,” said Weber State coach Randy Rahe, whose team snapped a 10-game losing streak in Dahlberg Arena. “He’s a great kid and has worked as hard as anybody I’ve ever coached. To have games like that, to have moments like that, when you work really hard like he does, the ball seems to go in better. He’s prepared himself to have games and moments like that.”
Another of Senglin’s treys in overtime came as he was nearly falling out of bounds.
“It was really good defense, but I work on that shot a lot,” said Senglin, who scored 27 points in a win over Montana State on Thursday. “It was just routine.”
There was little question who would take the final shot. After Walter Wright tied the game at 81-81 with a driving layup, Rahe called a time out. The play-call was for the other four Wildcats to spread out along the baseline, leaving the stage to Senglin.
“Jeremy’s pretty good about finding a shot somewhere, whether it’s driving it or shooting it,” said Rahe, whose team moved to 2-0 in league games, 7-6 overall. “We wanted to get everybody out of the way and see if he could get one off. He’s made a lot of shots like that in his career.”
What could Oguine -- or any defender -- do?
“I don’t guard myself, so I can’t answer that one, but I work on it a lot,” Senglin said. “That’s one of my moves.”
It was the kind of game the 3,710 fans who turned out for the New Year’s Eve matinee have come to expect from the two premier programs in the Big Sky. The teams have met in the postseason in six of the past seven years with Montana coming out on top in five of those, the lone loss coming in last season’s championship game (62-59). Three of the wins sent the Griz to the NCAA Tournament.
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“We wanted to win this game very badly,” said Wright, who led the Griz with 25 points. “This is a bigger game than most. We tried to treat it like a championship game and were trying to be perfect tonight.”
In one area, at least, the Griz nearly were. Montana committed just one turnover and that was on an offensive foul call 2 minutes, 35 seconds into the game. The Griz played the remaining 42:25 without a turnover.
“We’re doing a good job of taking care of the ball right now,” said DeCuire, whose Griz fell to 1-1, 6-9. “We’ve simplified some things. We need to focus on not forcing things that are not there. As we continue to get better with our shot selection and our patience, we’ll score even more.”
Neither team led by more than six points the whole way and the Griz had a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation.
Weber’s Cody John drove the baseline for a layup to put the Wildcats on top 70-69 with 1:09 to play. The teams traded misses before Wright drove all the way to the hole and was fouled by Kyndahl Hill with 2.0 seconds remaining. Wright, a 90-percent shooter from the line, missed the first freebie and made the second, leaving the game tied at 70-70. Senglin’s halfcourt bomb never reached the basket.
Neither team led by more than a bucket through the overtime period.
Senglin struck first from downtown in the overtime, only to see Jack Lopez make one of his own to tie the game again. Senglin then drove for a deuce, and Rorie -- who added 22 points -- did likewise. John hit a 17-foot jumper to put Weber on top 79-77, but a drive by Rorie knotted the game again. John hit another mid-range jumper to put the Wildcats on top 81-79 with 44 seconds to play, but Wright converted the drive that forced Senglin’s heroics.
“John made a lot of big shots,” Wright said. “I gave him a step or two and maybe I should have pressed up into him a little bit more. Those are mistakes I’ll learn from.”
The Griz were hampered all game long by foul trouble for post players Fabijan Krslovic and Jared Samuelson, who both fouled out. Krslovic played just 17 minutes and Samuelson nine.
“I thought we did a good job of forcing contact on penetration,” said DeCuire, whose team was 19 for 26 at the line. “The fouls on us a lot of them were … where we were fouling them below the waist, reaching for balls. That’s an easy call. … That’s where our discipline has to get better.”
It’s just Game 2 of an 18-game Big Sky slate, but the Griz might look back on this game as one that got away.
“You’re at home, you have them where you want them and they get away,” DeCuire said.
NOTES: Hill added 15 points for the Wildcats and Jerrick Harding came off the bench for 11. … Montana was 10 for 17 from 3-point range; Weber was 8 for 22. … Weber owned a 40-38 edge on the boards with Senglin’s 10 leading the way. … Oguine finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. … Weber State was 5 for 7 from the field in overtime; Montana was 4 of 7.