Kyle Owens did not start on Thursday night in Montana's 78-66 win over Sacramento State, but he certainly helped finish the Hornets off.
Owens scored a career-high 22 points — including 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc — as Montana moved to 7-7 (3-4 Big Sky) in a resounding rebound victory. The Grizzlies were coming off a tough loss to Northern Arizona.
Sophomore Eddy Egun started in place of Kyle Owens, as head coach Travis DeCuire said following the game he liked the size matchup against Sac State's Bryce Fowler. It also pushed Josh Bannan to the power forward spot.
"We went to a defensive lineup. The guys that hard been starting had given us leads, so it wasn't necessarily that," DeCuire told KGVO radio following the game. "I just wanted to focus on the right things and I wanted the guys that are defensive minded on the floor first. I wanted the right matchups."
Sacramento State was held to just 25 points in the first half and while its offense did click more in the final 20 minutes, the Grizzly offense hummed along.
Montana shot 49% on the evening, hitting 24 of 49 shots. Perhaps most impressively, Montana hit 26 of 30 free throws. Robby Beasley hit 10 of those and has hit 33 of 33 free throws this season.
He finished with 17 points on six shots, while Brandon Whitney tacked on 14 points. Cameron Parker scored just four points, but had five rebounds and seven assists against a single turnover.
Mack Anderson was impressive as well, recording a season-high 12 points in the second-highest scoring total of his career as he fouled out in 15 minutes. Montana was without freshman DJ Carter-Hollinger in the game and Michael Steadman got into foul trouble and played just 21 minutes, but Anderson and Owens were able to supply the height UM needed.
The Grizzlies also played small for long stretches as Bannan played just 15 minutes.
"We played three guards most of the game, so that allows us to spread the floor and have better ball handling and decision making in a lot of areas," DeCuire said. "It also made us harder to guard."
The Grizzlies had just nine turnovers on the evening, their fewest game this season. That was a welcome relief for the Grizzlies, who had been averaging around 14.5 per game this season.
Montana has lost a lot of possessions this year due to turnovers, despite being relatively efficient on the offensive side of the ball.
"We had a short stretch in the first half where we had quite a few of them in a short period of time and it was like, 'Oh man, here we go again,' but we settled down and, you know, the offense we ran was new, we put it in about a week and a half ago," DeCuire said. "We just hadn't had enough time to get comfortable in it.
"This was the first time where we said we're just gonna stick with it."
Sacramento State got off to a 8-2 lead in the early part of the game, but Montana ripped off a 16-0 run to take the lead for good. The Grizzlies led 33-25 at half, but a 10-2 Hornet run out of the break tied the game at 35.
Montana, though, responded with several short bursts to retake and hold the lead. An 11-3 run late pushed the Grizzlies to full take control of the game late.
Ethan Esposito led Sacramento State with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
"When you pay attention to the details, you tend to make fewer mistakes," DeCuire said. "And that's really what we did today."
NOTES: The 66 points the Hornets scored were the fewest in a game this season ... Josh Vazquez had a quiet night for Montana, scoring just two points in 19 minutes ... Montana hit 4 of 13 3-pointers ... The Grizzlies had 13 assists on 24 field goals.
Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com