SAN JOSE, Calif. – After all that talk about improving on last year’s NCAA tournament dud, Montana played even worse in its return trip.
Star guard Will Cherry shot just 1 for 12, scoring only two points, and the 13th-seeded Grizzlies had no answers for No. 4 seed Syracuse’s zone defense in an 81-34 loss Thursday night.
Montana shot just 20 percent from the field and trailed by at least 10 points for the final 35 minutes of the worst tournament defeat in Grizzlies history, topping a 92-54 loss against Kentucky in 1997.
“They jumped us pretty good and I think our guys maybe panicked a little when shots weren’t going in,” coach Wayne Tinkle said.
Brandon Triche scored 20 points and C.J. Fair added 13 to help Syracuse earn the most lopsided victory in NCAA tournament history for a team seeded third or lower, breaking a mark set about an hour earlier by fifth-seeded VCU against Akron.
Michael Carter-Williams chipped in four points, eight rebounds and nine assists as the Orange (27-9) raced out to an early lead that grew as big as 50 points and coasted past the Grizzlies (25-7) to their most lopsided tournament win since beating Brown 101-52 in the first round in 1986.
For the second straight season, the Grizzlies won the Big Sky tournament to earn an NCAA bid only to fall flat in their opener. They lost 73-49 to Wisconsin a year ago.
The Grizzlies shot just 20 percent (11 of 54).
“We didn’t come out how we pictured it,” Montana forward Spencer Coleman said. “We came out soft.”