(12) Montana 87

(24-6, 10-4 Big Sky)

(5) Nevada 79

(27-6, 13-3 WAC)

    3:10 PM ET, March 16, 2006

    Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

    1 2 T
    #12MONT 40 4787
    #5NEV 33 4679

    Top Performers

    Montana: A. Strait 22 Pts, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Blk

    Nevada: M. Kemp 34 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Montana overcomes Fazekas, Nevada in first-round upset

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Montana had a double-digit seed, little if anything positive to draw upon from its last NCAA Tournament appearance and could barely look eye-to-eye with Nevada's best player.

    None of that mattered. The Grizzlies had 12th-seed magic on their side.

    The little team from the Big Sky Conference carried on the winning tradition of No. 12 seeds in the NCAA Tournament by beating fifth-seeded Nevada 87-79 Thursday in the first round of the Minneapolis Regional.

    Since 1985, at least one 12th-seeded team has upset a No. 5 seed in the Tournament every year except for 1988 and 2000.

    And with the poise the Grizzlies showed throughout against Nevada, they treated Montana's first win in the Tournament since 1975 like it was just another regular-season game.

    "We're not a team that goes out and celebrates, hoots and hahs. But there was a lot of emotion in the locker room," said Kevin Criswell, who scored 18 for Montana.

    Nevada has two 7-footers and 6-11 Nick Fazekas, the two-time Western Athletic Conference player of the year.

    The Big Sky champion Grizzlies had nobody taller than 6-9. But the decided height advantage wasn't good for much more than an advantage in rebounding for the Wolf Pack. Montana made up for that with solid shooting, especially from the free-throw line in the second half.

    The Wolf Pack said on Wednesday that they hadn't had a chance to watch much film about Montana and knew little about the Grizzlies.

    The Grizzlies didn't take it directly as a slight. They felt Nevada wasn't alone in knowing little about Montana.

    "I bet they'd go watch film more if they had to do it again," said Virgil Matthews, who had 20 points and seven assists for Montana.

    A year after being overwhelmed early in a first-round loss, the Grizzlies (24-6) returned like NCAA Tournament veterans and never trailed against the Wolf Pack (27-6), who moved from the role of underdog to first-round favorite this season.

    Andrew Strait, Montana's second-tallest player at 6-foot-8, had 22 points. He said the Grizzlies, seeded 16th a year ago, were happy to be a 12.

    "Obviously, the seeding is based on a lot of different things," Strait said. "They were a great team, they played in a tough league, they've beaten a lot of good teams this year."

    Nevada had won 14 straight, winning the WAC regular season and conference tournament to make it to the NCAA regionals for the third straight year. The Wolf Pack advanced out of the first round each of the past two seasons, first as a 10th seed, then as a No. 9.

    Montana did little to stop Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp -- the Wolf Pack's top-two scorers -- but shut down everyone else. Fazekas had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Kemp scored 34. The rest of the Pack scored a combined for 21 points.

    A year ago, under first-year coach and former Montana star Larry Krystowiak, the Grizzlies needed four minutes to score their first point against Washington and trailed by 19 in the first half.

    This time around, the Grizzlies led 40-33 at halftime and never appeared intimidated while looking up at Nevada's towering frontcourt.

    "I said this year, the story line doesn't need to be that we were up by seven at halftime and we let it slip away. The experience from last year helped us through this time," coach Larry Krystowiak said.

    The Grizzlies play Boston College in the second round on Saturday.

    Montana shot 52 percent (29 of 56) and made 23 of 27 free throws -- going 19-for-23 in the second half while holding off several Nevada comebacks.

    After Nevada coach Mark Fox was called for a technical with 8:47 left, the Wolf Pack went on a 9-3 run and got within 63-60 on a three-point play by Mo Charlo with 6:13 remaining.

    But Matthews answered that with a 3-pointer and added two free throws to start a 9-0 run for Montana. Kevin Criswell ended it with a 17-foot jumper to put the Grizzlies ahead 72-60.

    "Those are heartbreakers," Fazekas said. "They hit like three of four of them. You're down three, then all of a sudden you're back down six."

    Both schools are about an 8-hour drive from Salt Lake City and the crowd was split about evenly. But Nevada didn't give the Wolf Pack fans much to cheer about early, missing 13 of 17 shots to start the game.

    "The madness of March. This year we're on the wrong side of it," Fox said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 87 79
    FG Made-Attempted 29-56 (.518) 33-70 (.471)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-12 (.500) 5-18 (.278)
    FT Made-Attempted 23-27 (.852) 8-10 (.800)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 12 (0/0) 23 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 16 0


    » Mar 16, 2006 MONT 87, @NEV 79Recap