MISSOULA — When Donaven Dorsey was ruled out for the season earlier this week because of hip injuries, Montana needed to fill a starting spot on the wing.
Junior Bobby Moorehead filled that spot Friday and keyed a second-half surge as the Griz went to a smaller lineup to beat the Whitworth Pirates, 72-60, at Dahlberg Arena.
Moorehead finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He tallied 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the second half, playing more of the power forward position instead of the wing, as the Griz out-scored the Pirates, 40-31.
He had two games of double-digit scoring in 32 contests and 10 starts last year, with 10 points in each game.
"I just focused on helping my teammates out," Moorehead said. "I know the help-side defense was something I didn't do well in the first half ... so I had to help them out there. That was my point of emphasis in the second half was to help my teammates.
"I feel good shooting the ball. I felt I needed to step up with other people struggling and had to help out with rebounding."
He added a team-high nine rebounds, one assist and one steal. The Griz were out-rebounded, 42-33, which head coach Travis DeCuire credited to missing 37 shots and 10 free throws.
"That’s the Bobby Moorehead I know," DeCuire said. "He’s the guy who does all the right things. He’s in the right places defensively. He understand's concepts, doesn’t make plays that beat you, and when he’s making his shots, he's tough to stop. The nine rebounds stood out the most to me. He’s your competitor and that’s the Bobby Moorehead that we would expect to see a lot."
Ahmaad Rorie led all players with 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He scored 12 of those points in a competitive first half that saw the Griz lead just 32-29 at the break.
Oguine added 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.
The Griz shot 51.7 percent (15 of 29) in the second half after being limited to 30.3 percent (10 of 33) in the first half. They held Whitworth to 40.4 percent (19 of 47) from the field and 33.3 percent (4 of 12) on 3-pointers.
Whitworth was led by guard Jordan Lester’s 18 points. Guard Kyle Roach added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Ben Bishop scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Moorehead started the game alongside Rorie, Oguine, Fabijan Krslovic and Jamar Akoh It was the same group that started the exhibition game.
Sayeed Pridgett, Karl Nicholas, Timmy Falls and Trever Spoja saw action off the bench. Niko Bevens, Lars Espe and Admir Besovic played in the final minute with the win sealed.
Pridgett was expected to compete with Dorsey and Moorehead for starting time on the wing before the injury. He also came through by scoring all nine of his points in the second half when the Griz went small. He added five rebounds, two steals, two blocks and one assist.
Forwards Krslovic and Akoh sat out the majority of the final 17-plus minutes because of that move to the smaller lineup.
"It was easier to defend their concepts," DeCuire said. "They were playing four perimeters players. Offensively, it was easier for us to score with the floor spread and play with speed. It wasn’t planned, but once we went on a run, I just stuck with it and rode it out the rest of the way."
The Griz jumped up 8-6 on a Rorie 3-pointer 3:32 into the game, but Whitworth took the lead on the next possession, a Ben College 3-pointer from NBA range.
Montana trailed until Oguine hit a corner 3-pointer for a 24-21 lead with 5:41 left in the half. Spoja assisted on the jumper, which came one possession after he blocked a layup in transition.
After Whitworth retook the lead, 35-34, in the second half, Nicholas scored a layup, and Moorehead grabbed a rebound, scored in transition and converted an and-1 to put the Griz ahead for good.
Moorehead scored on an inbound the next possession, and Pridgett scored in transition and added a layup to give the Griz a 45-35 lead.
Moorehead added a corner 3-pointer that put the Griz ahead 48-37, and he later dished to Pridgett for a dunk that put the Griz up 50-41. It was the start of a 12-0 run that gave the Griz a 60-41 lead.
Whitworth later used an 8-0 run to pull within 67-57 with 3:13 to play, but the Griz held the Pirates to 1-of-7 shooting to close the game.
NOTES: The Griz improved to 2-2 in season openers and 3-1 in home openers under DeCuire … Montana moved to 4-0 against Whitworth under DeCuire. … The Griz will play four consecutive road games before they return to Missoula on Nov. 26 to face Carroll College. … Peter Jones and Kelby Kramer were the only Griz who didn’t play.