And his team couldn't.
The Montana Grizzly men's team came up short in their comeback effort, falling to Duquesne University 87–76 in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational tournament Wednesday night. The loss at home eliminated the Griz from the invitational, ending their season with a 21–11 record.
The Grizzlies allowed a season-high 87 points to Duquesne (19–12), a team known for its fast-paced offense and bountiful scoring performances. Tinkle, Montana's fifth year coach, said he was concerned with his team's focus going into the game. The Grizzlies lost the Big Sky Championship a week ago to Northern Colorado and with it a berth into the NCAA Tournament. With their primary goal out of reach, Tinkle said the team felt like it was in limbo.
Those misgivings became transformed into bleak reality when the Dukes pounded an uncharacteristically soft Grizzly defense for 49 points in the first half — a mark they held opponents under in six games this season. Montana battled with a more even effort after intermission, narrowing a 49–35 halftime gap down to as low as six points.
But in the end, the hot shooting Dukes ran away with it.
The loss marked the end of senior center Brian Qvale's stay in a Montana jersey. Speaking of his four years in Missoula, Qvale was noticeably deflated. He said as the final moments ticked off the game clock and his collegiate career, he tried to keep his mind on the game.
"You just keep playing hard," said Qvale, who picked up three blocks in the game, moving him into first place for the Big Sky single-season record with 95. "I battled the whole game and every game for these guys.
"I wasn't trying to think of it as my last game even though in the back of my head I knew it was going to be the last time I played in Dahlberg Arena," he said.
Qvale finished the game with 15 points and six rebounds. He has 247 career blocks, also a conference record.
But the stars of the day came from Duquesne, which had one of its most balanced offensive attacks on the year. The Dukes' senior forward Damian Saunders was slowed by illness this week. To relieve some of his player's pressure on the court, Duquesne coach Ron Everhart leaned heavily on his bench players. Playing time and points spread evenly across his roster and annoyed the Grizzlies' defense all night.
"We decided to go with a platoon system more like hockey and utilize our depth," Everhart said of his strategy that saw four or five players check into the game at once. "I thought we could wear guys down with our depth."
Ten Dukes recorded 12 minutes or more of game time and five players scored in double figures, led by sophomore Sean Johnson who had a career-high 17. Duquesne ran its record to 12–0 when five players all scored 10 or more.
The speed of a smaller Dukes team helped them run around Montana, cause 19 turnovers and pull the Grizzlies' two big men — the 6-foot-11 Qvale and 7-footer Derek Selvig — out of the middle to guard shooters on the perimeter. And that's when the Dukes would strike.
"Obviously we would not have been able to do that had we not got Brian [Qvale] and Derek Selvig out of the lane," Everhart said.
The game also acted as a passing of the torch from Qvale, the veteran, to some of the younger players. True freshman Kareem Jamar scored a game-high and personal best 22 points. Coming off the bench, Jordan Wood logged 14 points behind a 6-for-6 shooting night.
"I got a lot of easy layups," Jamar said, referring to the fast-break points he scored, many coming on passes by Selvig. "I feel like I should take Derek out to lunch for all those."
In the CBI bracket, Duquesne moves on to face Oregon (17–17) who beat fellow Big Sky member Weber State 68–59 on Wednesday in Eugene, Ore.