MISSOULA — Lonnell Martin Jr.'s buzzer-beater layup off a lob from Cameron Parker with 3.3 seconds left gave the Montana Grizzlies a big win, 74-72, over rival Weber State on Saturday evening at Dahlberg Arena.
The Grizzlies improved to 10-5 overall and 3-1 in Big Sky Conference play while Weber State fell to 10-5 and 3-1.
The Grizzlies had the ball in the final seconds with the game tied 72-72. With 10 seconds left on the shot clock and 14 seconds left in the game, Parker looked to find Josh Bannan in the post but Weber State snuffed it out, so Bannan got the ball back to Parker. With the shot clock winding down, Martin slipped past his man toward the hoop and Parker found him with a quick pass and Martin caught it mid-jump and spun and laid the ball into the basket with 3.3 seconds left in the game that sent Dahlberg into a frenzy.
Weber State's final attempt missed the mark as the buzzer sounded as the Grizzlies got the early statement win to open the New Year.
"The play call was initially to set a back-screen for (Bannan) and let him work because he's been dominating down there in the post and I think that was a good play to go to," Martin explained after the game. "But Weber State recognized it and we were just playing from the fly right there. I saw that my man was asleep so I back-doored it and Cam's a great passer, we've seen it, and I knew there was one or two seconds left so I had to get the shot off."
"Our bench does a really good job of letting us know when the shot clock is down and I knew he was going to have to shoot it or I'd have to get a rebound. I saw there was two seconds left on the shot clock and didn't have time to come down."
Robby Beasley III led Montana with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting and a 5-for-9 performance from deep. Bannan finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double and sixth of the year, while Parker added 12 points and eight assists for the Grizzlies. Martin added seven points and five rebounds as well.
"We put Cam in there for that reason that late game, plays break down, the play doesn't always work and somebody is going to have to be able to make a play," Griz coach Travis DeCuire said. "I knew that they'd be doing some switching and someone could come open and Cam's usually the guy that can find that guy."
A 3-pointer from Beasley at the 7:06 mark gave Montana a 23-15 lead on Weber State early as both offenses struggled to score to start the game. But the Wildcats responded from there with a 15-0 run to take a 30-23 lead with 2:56 remaining in the first half. Turnovers doom Montana during that stretch, as the Grizzlies gave it up on six straight possessions and the Wildcats took advantage as the Grizzlies turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and 15 times in the game.
But Montana found its footing down the stretch, and a 3-pointer from Parker sent UM into the break trailing 33-32.
The second half went back-and-forth between the two teams as Montana's offense found life first before the Wildcats eventually caught up. The Grizzlies led 46-40 five minutes into the second half, but Weber State responded with a 6-0 run to tie it, and the teams continued to trade buckets down the stretch. Montana needed some luck, as Derrick Carter-Hollinger drilled a prayer heave three as the shot clock sounded that went in to give the Grizzlies a 57-55 advantage with 9:17 left.
Montana eventually built a 72-68 lead at the 3:04 mark after a layup from Carter-Hollinger, who finished with eight points. But a pair of buckets from Weber State's Koby McEwen and Dillon Jones tied it with two minutes to play. McEwn led the game with 24 points while Jones finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.
On Montana's next two possessions the Grizzlies missed a shot and turned it over, but the Wildcats couldn't capitalize and missed a pair of shots as well, all leading to UM getting the ball back with 30 seconds left to play, and eventually, Martin's game-winner.
"Break even, man. It's one of those where you can feel whoever has that ball last is going to win," DeCuire said. "All we were screaming was one rebound, guys. We needed them to miss one time and get the rebound and we'd be fine and it finally happened. You're antsy because you don't know what they're going to run, you're trying to guess. Someone has to make a play and fortunately for us we had some guys do that."
The Griz finished shooting 51.9% from the field and 10 for 19 from deep. Weber State shot at a 45.9% rate from the field and went 5 for 17 from 3-point range. The Wildcats out-rebounded Montana 33 to 26 but UM finished with 16 assists to Weber State's six.
For a team that let a few close games slip away last year down the stretch, Saturday's was an example of the growth UM's team has gone through.
"Last year it was all of our first year's together, we didn't really have that kind of experience, that leadership besides Mack (Anderson) and Freddy Brown a little bit," Parker said. "We try to do that in practice. There's a lot of times that we don't close out drills and all of our coaches get on us like that's what we did last year, that's what we did in a game so we made sure to try and close this one out and I'm definitely happy that we all came together. We stuck together the whole time, there was a lot of times that we faced adversity during that game. I'm just proud of this group."
The Grizzlies will be on the road in their next two games when they take on Eastern Washington (8-6, 2-1) on Thursday before traveling to Bozeman to take on the Bobcats (10-5, 2-2) on Sunday.