DILLON — When Carroll College faced the Montana Western men's basketball team in December, it gave up a 23-point lead in an eventual loss.
The Saints got their revenge by pulling away late for an 89-64 win to hand the No. 9 Bulldogs their first Frontier Conference loss of the season in Straugh Gymnasium on Thursday night.
It was the fifth win in a row for the Saints (16-3, 6-1 Frontier), and snapped a four-game win streak for the Bulldogs (16-3, 6-1).
“I’m just so happy for the guys,” Carroll coach Carson Cunningham said. “We have worked so hard. We had a bad half versus Western and we learned from it. We learned from our tough schedule in non-conference. Our practice yesterday was so intense.”
Heading into the second half, the Bulldogs had a 35-32 lead. But with persistent shooting, the Saints slowly chipped away at the hosts' advantage before tying the game at 48-48 with 13 minutes left.
Then Saints guard Zach Taylor went to work, following up his game-tying jumper with another bucket and a free throw to really get the Carroll offense going.
Carroll built its lead as several players got hot. Taylor put up 20 points in the second half with lights-out shooting and finished with a game-high 26. The Saints eventually built up a 20-point lead as the Bulldogs went cold.
Riley King, a former Carroll player, hit a trey with eight minutes remaining, but it would take Western six minutes to score another field goal.
Western shot 32 percent in the second half after shooting 48 percent before the break.
“They played a great second half like we did at their place,” Western coach Steve Keller said. “They’re a matchup nightmare. They’ve got three guys, they isolate them and give them the ball. It just makes it tough. We fouled too much. We’re usually the team that gets to the free-throw line and we didn’t.”
Western was led by senior Shyke Smalls with 16 points and four rebounds. King and Zaccheus Darko-Kelly chipped in nine points apiece, respectfully.
Western and Carroll grappled for the lead in the first half. Western jumped out to an early advantage with two jumpers and free throw. The Saints took their first lead of the night when junior Ryan Imhoff, who leads the Saints in scoring on the season, drove through to paint for a bucket.
Carroll maintained its lead until sophomore Bulldogs guard Matt Wyman scored a basket to push ahead. The Saints tied the game up with 8:23 on the clock at 19-19. Western took its biggest lead of the first half of seven points when Bulldogs junior Matt Payne scored a jumper.
With one minute remaining, the Saints cut down the Bulldogs lead with a 6-0 run. Sophomore forward Match Burnham sank a trey and then hit one bucket from the free-throw line. The Saints tipped in one final basket as the buzzer went off.
Western led the first half 35-32.
Carroll was led by Taylor who had 26 points and five rebounds. The Saints had 35 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 turnovers. Also chipping in was Burnham who contributed 18 points and grabbed seven boards.
Keller said Thursday’s loss was a wakeup call.
“We’ve had a great season,” Keller said. “We had two losses and we come off of two tough road wins. I think we thought we were pretty tough. We failed to show up at home and we have to show up at home.”
Western’s next game is 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Rocky Mountain College, and Carroll’s next game is 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Helena against Rocky Mountain College.
Western 53, Carroll 51
Western senior guard Aniese Palmore hit a pair of layups -- including the game-winner -- in the final 23 seconds, to secure the win for the Bulldogs.
Carroll came shooting out of the gate as the Saints jumped to a 19-8 lead. But the Saints struggled in the second quarter as they only put up two points. The Saints led the first half 21-20.
During the second half, both teams came out shooting lights out. In the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, the teams traded buckets. The game was tied up twice as the minutes ticked down on the clock.
With 54 seconds remaining, the Saints took a 50-49 lead with a jumper from junior Bailey Pasta. Carroll pulled away by one with a free-throw from junior Cassidy Hashley.
Palmore led the Bulldogs with 24 points and grabbed four boards. Pasta led the Saints with 15 points and had two steals.
Carroll’s next game is 5:30 p.m Saturday in Helena against Rocky Mountain College, and the Western’s next game is 5:30 p.m. Friday in Dillon against Rocky.