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