Montana no match for Wisconsin in 73-49 loss

The Montana Grizzlies were very familiar with Wisconsin’s

bruising style because one of their assistants, Freddie Owens,

played for the Badgers from 2001-04.

His inside information didn’t help them hang with the Badgers

for long, however.

The Grizzlies saw their school record 14-game winning streak

snapped with a 73-49 beatdown by the Badgers in their NCAA

tournament opener Thursday at the Pit.

Montana (25-7) shot just 38 percent overall and 29 percent in

the second half. Their leading scorer, Will Cherry, was held to 9

points on 3 of 14 shooting and had no assists.

The Grizzlies lost for the first time since Jan. 14.

”We said in the locker room, it’s been a while since we tasted

defeat,” Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said. ”It was a heck of a run

that these guys put together, and I’m awfully proud of that.

Getting to this position is great.”

The Grizzlies had no answer for All-America point guard Jordan

Taylor and his supporting cast. Taylor, who settled for lower

numbers across the board as he incorporated three new starting

forwards into the lineup this season, scored 17 points, dished out

six assists and pulled down eight rebounds.

Ryan Evans led Wisconsin with 18 points and eight boards, and

the Badgers (25-9) improved to 10-1 in NCAA tournament openers

under Bo Ryan, the winningest coach in the program’s history.

Art Steward’s 18 points led the Grizzles, who had its best

season in two decades. The team’s last loss was two months ago at

Weber State, the same squad it wiped out by 19 in the Big Sky title


The 13th-seeded Grizzlies only held two leads against the

bigger, badder Badgers – 2-0 and 5-2 on Derek Selvig’s 3-pointer,

which was quickly matched by a 3 from Josh Gasser, who scored 12


”Offensively they did a good job of swinging a ball and finding

the mismatches early and exploiting us,” Cherry said. ”They did a

good job of driving and getting to the line in the first half. In

the second half, they just were just relentless on the offensive


Evans averaged 10.9 points in the regular season and topped that

in the first half when his 14 points helped the Badgers to a 39-29

halftime cushion.

Wisconsin, making its 14th straight appearance in the NCAA

tournament, raced out to a 14-7 lead when Evans swished his first

four shots, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

”We pride ourselves on creating doubt in the minds of our

opponents, and I thought they really did a good job of that

tonight,” Tinkle said. ”Our guys battled back. We made a nice

little run there in the second half, and they always had an answer,

a lot of dagger plays there in the second half, so proud of my

group. It’s been a heck of a year.”

Mathias Ward sank two free throws and a 3-pointer and Cherry hit

another 3 to cut Wisconsin’s 16-point lead to 48-38, but the

Badgers called timeout and then outscored Montana 25-11 the rest of

the way, never letting the Grizzlies push the pace like they


”They weren’t turning the ball over,” Cherry said. ”We sped

them up at times, but I felt like somehow they always kicked it to

an open shooter who made a dagger three, and put a little damper in

our comeback.”

Getting down big against a team as deliberate as Wisconsin

spelled the end for Montana.

”We just couldn’t get on a roll,” Selvig said. ”Usually we

like to create momentum in transition and just didn’t feel like we

could get out and run. Our offense ended some plays with fouls when

they ran some shot clocks down and got some shots, we fouled them.

So we didn’t do a good job there.”

Still, they tried to look on the bright side of making their

second trip to the NCAA tournament in three years.

”This year was a heck of a run,” Selvig said. ”I’m just

really thankful for the coaches and my teammates for making it so

special. It’s tough to go out this way, but those guys were just

ready to play and we just made mistakes when we couldn’t, and

that’s the difference.”

Cherry, a junior, had knelt and kissed the NCAA logo at the

tournament two years ago. This time, he was all business. He said

they’ll use this bitter defeat to motivate them for a return trip

next year.

”If we can keep working hard, keep working hard and never be

satisfied, we’ll be back here,” Cherry said. ”No doubt about

that, because we’re never satisfied. We’re hungry. We do things the

Grizzly way like Coach Tinkle is always preaching. The Grizzly way

is hard and smart together. If we can keep those things rolling

we’ll be back here without a doubt.

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