Montana meets No. 25 Washington after epic upset

NCAA Basketball

There are losses and then there are historic losses.

Montana is coming off the latter entering Friday night’s game at No. 25 Washington.

The Grizzlies (1-3), the defending Big Sky Conference champions and the preseason favorites to repeat, suffered a 74-72 defeat Monday at home to Montana Tech, an NAIA school.

How big of an upset was it?

The Orediggers last defeated Montana in the 1947-48 season. It was the Grizzlies’ first loss to a non-Division I team since 2002-03 and their first at home since 1980-81.

“We’re just not all on the same page right now, and that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “Execution is poor on the offensive end, and I think it’s been good on the defensive end until (Monday). Our level of intensity wasn’t high enough, but we turned the ball over too much, and that has bit us in every game we’ve played.”

Senior guard Kendal Manuel scored 22 points, and freshman forward Kyle Owens scored 17. Senior guard Sayeed Pridgett added 14, but his desperation shot at the final buzzer misfired.

This will be Montana’s third road game against a D-I opponent. They suffered defeats at Stanford (73-62) and Arkansas (64-46).

The Huskies (3-1) are coming off a 72-53 victory against Maine. Freshman forward Isaiah Stewart had game-highs with 16 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Quade Green, a transfer from Kentucky, added 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field.

Washington rebounded from its first loss of the season, 75-62 to Tennessee last weekend in the James Naismith Hall of Fame Classic in Toronto.

“It’s just coming out with energy. We have to stop the slow starts. We can’t continue to do that,” Stewart said. “We came out slow against Tennessee and we were playing down, playing behind the whole game. Basically bringing that energy from the beginning. We can’t come out like that.”

The Huskies have started slowly in all four of their games this season, but junior guard Nahziah Carter got them going against the Black Bears with a trio of highlight-reel dunks during a 15-0 run midway through the first half.

“He’s just, he’s an incredible finisher, especially dunking the ball,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “He’s definitely a game dunker. There’s a lot of dunk-contest guys, and then there are guys that are great in-game dunkers. Naz is a great in-game dunker.”

The last of Carter’s trio was a windmill dunk on a breakaway that gave the Huskies a 32-13 lead.

Asked what he thought of the last dunk, Hopkins grinned.

“You better make it, or you’ll be sitting next to me,” Hopkins said.

The Huskies shot a season-best 46.7 percent despite making just 3 of 15 3-point attempts.

Hopkins credited Green, the Huskies’ point guard.

“I thought he set the tone,” Hopkins said. “He shared the ball, he pushed the ball. He took the right shots. He played within himself. I thought he played exceptionally hard on the defensive end. He got better tonight, no question.”

Freshman forward Jaden McDaniels, who like Stewart and Green was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, finished with 11 points for the Huskies despite shooting just 4 for 17 from the field.

–Field Level Media

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