Grambling knocks off Montana State in NCAA play-in game 88-81

title image via Marcus Plummer

Courtesy of Curtis Ford, Grambling State Athletics

Grambling Logo


Winner GSU

Montana St. Logo



Team12OT 1F
GSU33 39 16 88
MSU42 30 81

DAYTON, Ohio | In the first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament appearance for the Grambling State University men’s basketball program, the Tigers won an overtime thriller over Montana State, 88-81, at the University of Dayton Arena.

Grambling State(21-14)  eliminated a 14-point second half deficit and withstood 13 Montana State three-pointers to snatch the victory. 

Jimel Cofer was the unlikely hero for GSU scoring a career-high 19 points off the bench, with two rebounds and two steals. The sophomore from Marcos, Texas was nearly perfect from the field, going 7-for-9 and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. 

The Tigers got equally as strong performances from Jourdan Smith and Antwan Burnett who scored 18 points apiece. Smith narrowly missed a double-double in his NCAA Tournament debut, snagging nine rebounds with three blocks and two steals. 

GSU got started off strong with a dunk by Jonathan Aku on GSU’s first trip up court. However, Montana State (17-18) flexed its muscle early with Brandon Walker managing some buckets inside the paint and helping the Bobcats grab an 8-4 lead at the 16:45 mark. 

With GSU trailing 12-9, MSU pushed its advantage to 18-9 with a back-to-back three-pointers. 

Grambling State used a 10-2 run capped by a corner three from Burnett to pull back within a point, 20-19, with 9:58 remaining in the half. After the Bobcats stretched the lead to 24-19, a layup by Jalen Johnson and a triple from Smith tied the game at 24-24 with 6:28 on the clock. 

After Montana State responded with a three of their own, Tra’Micahel Moton’s driving layup made it 27-26. Burnett then knocked down a trey, giving the Tigers a 29-27 lead at the 5:14 mark. 

MSU closed the half of a 15-4 run to carry a 42-33 lead into halftime. 

In the second half, after Montana State grabbed its largest lead of the game, 53-39, Grambling State dug into its comeback bag, using an 11-0 run to cut the Bobcats lead to 56-53 with 10:29 to play. 

GSU continued to surge under the emergence of Cofer off the bench. Trailing 59-51, Cofer helped the Tigers engineer an 11-0 run scoring six of those points to put GSU in front 62-59 with 5:47 remaining in the game and forcing an MSU timeout. 

After a dunk by John Olmstead, Smith splashed another three to make a 65-61 game. The Bobcats wouldn’t go away as Robert Ford III converted an and one to pull MSU back within a point. With Grambling State leading 67-64, another Montana State trey tied it back up at 67-67 with 2:49 left in regulation.
railing 72-70 with 32 seconds to go, Cofer came up with another big bucket that sent the game into overtime.

GSU never trailed in the extra period. Tied at 78-78 with 2:02 left, GSU crafted an insurmountable 86-78 lead after going on an 8-0 run with 22 second on the clock. 

Ford was Montana State’s leading scorer with a game-high 26 points.


  • Grambling State went 33-of-66 from the floor (50.0 percent), 4-of-10 (40.0 percent) from three-point range and 18-for-23 (78.3 percent) from the free throw line.
  • Montana State shot 51.7 percent (30-of-58) and 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from behind the arc and 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from the charity stripe.
  • The 14-point point comeback was the third largest comeback for the Tigers this season. GSU erased 17-point deficits in both of its regular season wins over rival Southern. 
  • GSU dominated the boards, outrebounding MSU 41-27.
  • The Tigers finished with 52 points in the paint, 35 bench points, three fastbreak points, 19 second chance points and 23 points off 11 turnovers. 
  • MSU scored 28 points in the paint, 16 bench points, three fastbreak points and eight points off 12 turnovers. 

Grambling State heads to Indianapolis, Ind. to on No. 1 seed Purdue in the Round of 64. Friday’s tip-off is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and will be broadcast on TBS. 

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