Arizona rolls over Montana 61-42 after home streak ends
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona got the ball down low to Chase Jeter early and often.
The Wildcats’ big man had a rough outing against Baylor, as did most of the team, so establishing him inside was a priority against Montana.
Jeter responded with a career-best game, scoring 21 points as the Wildcats bounced back from their first nonconference home loss in seven years with a 61-42 victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open and having the confidence in me to score the ball when I got it,” said Jeter, who made 9 of 15 shots.
Arizona had its 52-game home nonconference winning streak end on Saturday, when Baylor crushed the Wildcats on the glass in a 58-49 victory. The Wildcats (8-4) bounced back with a stellar defensive performance, holding the Grizzlies (6-4) to 27 percent shooting in Arizona coach Sean Miller’s 500th career game.
Outrebounded 51-19 against Baylor, Arizona had a much better effort inside against Montana, grabbing 10 more rebounds while outscoring the Grizzlies 42-16 in the paint.
“I feel like we’re back now,” said Arizona’s Brandon Randolph, who had 15 points.
Montana played without leading rebounder Jamar Akoh due to a wrist injury and had two long field goal-less stretches to prevent any chance of an upset at McKale Center. The Grizzlies also struggled from the perimeter, going 5 for 23 from the 3-point arc, and had no answer for Jeter inside without Akoh.
Ahmaad Rorie had 19 points to lead Montana.
“The conversation before travel was more about playing hard, playing together and competing, and not worry about who the opponent is,” Grizzlies coach Travis DeCuire said. “I thought they did that. Lack of effort didn’t have anything to do with this game.”
Both teams went through long stretches of offensive ineptitude in a defensive-dominated first half.
The Grizzlies struggled offensively early, going more than five minutes without a field goal as Arizona built an 11-point lead by repeatedly getting the ball down low to Jeter.
Montana made up for it on the defensive end, holding the Wildcats without a field goal for more than 10½ minutes, including a 6½-minute scoreless streak.
Arizona took another defensive stand to close the first half, holding the Grizzlies to one field goal over the final 7:51 to lead 22-15.
The Grizzlies went through another offensive funk early in the second half, going scoreless for nearly 6 minutes as Arizona pushed the lead to 40-26.
Arizona kept up the defensive pressure from there to stymie any thought of a comeback.
“Nobody felt good what we did against Baylor,” Miller said. “Some of it was self-inflicted, some of it was a matter of circumstances. You can only control the response and we moved forward.”
Montana had a hard time against Arizona’ length with Akoh out, particularly on offense. Even so, a game in a tough environment should only help once the Big Sky season starts.
Arizona got back to its defensive roots against a veteran team that went to the NCAA Tournament last season. Maybe another home nonconference streak has started?
Brandon Williams had hard knee-on-knee contact with teammate Justin Coleman in practice before the Baylor game and played through swelling.
Wanting to ease him into the Montana game, Miller started Dylan Smith with Williams coming off the bench.
Williams, who had an injury to the same knee in high school, played 22 minutes, finishing with three points and three assists.
“We’re looking at being smart with him, limiting practices,” Miller said. “That’s why I didn’t play him as much down the stretch, just to make sure he’s all set. I think each day gets a little bit better.”
TURNING IT OVER
Montana isn’t known for forcing turnovers, yet the Grizzlies had success forcing Arizona to cough up the ball. The Wildcats helped as well, finishing with 16 turnovers.
The Grizzlies had their own problems holding onto the ball, turning it over 16 times, leading to 15 points for Arizona.
“They reach a lot,” DeCuire said. “When you drive in traffic, they reach and slap and claw. We knew it and I thought we did a decent job with it.”
Montana plays at South Dakota State on Saturday.
Arizona hosts UC Davis on Saturday.
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