Spalding-record 51 points show ‘hard work is paying off’ for Marcus Montgomery

Steve Jones

Before last weekend, Marcus Montgomery had never scored more than 29 points in a high school or college basketball game. So after he shot way, way, way past that to a record degree on Saturday, Montgomery said he’s feeling more confident than ever to help lead Spalding University.

Montgomery, a sophomore guard, set Spalding’s school record with 51 points in the Golden Eagles’ 133-121 loss at Greenville on Jan. 5, earning him St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors. It’s the second-most points ever scored by a player from any school in a SLIAC game.

Montgomery, a former backup who was making his third start of the season, broke DeWhon McAfee’s Spalding record of 39 points, set in a loss to Indiana University-Southeast on Dec. 8, 2012. Montgomery also easily surpassed his own previous collegiate high of 25 points, which he’d accomplished twice this season and once as a freshman. He said his career high while at Butler High School was 29.

“I’ve had multiple 20-point games, but I never imagined I would crack 50,” Montgomery said. “It shows my hard work is paying off. … Now I just want our team to win the conference and make it to the NCAA Tournament. That’s all that matters.”

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With the Golden Eagles (4-9, 3-3 SLIAC) set to return to the court on Wednesday night at MacMurray, Montgomery leads Spalding, averaging 16.9 points per game, and he’s been surging since the holidays. In his past five games, he’s averaged 26 points.

Montgomery said Saturday’s game was still disappointing because it ended in defeat. But his record-setting performance was a bright spot. Montgomery found his groove in trying to help the Golden Eagles rally against Greenville, whose pressing, up-tempo style tends to create high-scoring games.

With a combination of driving layups and jump shots, Montgomery finished 18 of 29 from the floor, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, and made all nine of his free throws. He added five rebounds and three assists. Montgomery scored 29 points after halftime, including 21 over the final 6:36 of the game, as he said his teammates were looking to get him the ball.

“It was just going out and playing and having fun,” Montgomery said. “When we broke their press, I just kept scoring. … I felt like I could hit any shot.”

Unbeknownst to him, Montgomery surpassed 50 points on a layup with 17 seconds left on the game’s final basket. Montgomery knew he’d just completed a big game – and guessed that he’d topped at least 30 points – but he said he had no idea that he’d gotten to 51 until teammate Chance Hill informed him.

“I said, ‘For real?’ I thought he was playing,” Montgomery said. “But he said, ‘No, you really had 51.’”

Montgomery said it really didn’t hit him until the day after the game when he said he started receiving text messages and calls from friends, relatives and former coaches congratulating him on his record performance. In all, he got more than 50.

On Monday, he said, he got another round of congratulations from classmates who saw him at lunch at the College Street Café. Later in the day, he learned about the SLIAC Player of the Week honor.

“It was cool,” he said, adding that his father told him that the 51-point game was the result of the hard work Montgomery put in over the summer.

The record-breaking game suggests Montgomery has made quite a leap since his freshman year, when he averaged 6.7 points in 20 appearances, including two starts, and also battled a foot injury.

In the offseason, he said he was routinely in the gym getting up shots and working toward a bigger role as a sophomore.

Now Montgomery said his confidence his high and that he believes he’s earned his teammates’ confidence, too.

“I’m ready to play,” Montgomery said. “Any shot I shoot, I think it can go in. That’s how my teammates feel, too.”

Montgomery, a business administration major, said it’s special to have his name in the record book of a university that’s he grown up around.

His mother, Vicki, formerly worked in the Spalding financial aid office, and as a youngster, Marcus visited campus all the time and shot ball in the Columbia Gym. He also has known Spalding coach Kevin Gray for years, having played for him on a youth club team.

“I’ve been around here most of my life,” he said.

On Saturday, he left a lasting mark.