BOZEMAN – Don’t get Montana State basketball coach Brian Fish wrong, the best thing about Monday night’s game against Louisiana was the win. But he saw something from his team that may be just as important to his team’s success.
“The biggest thing was we faced adversity three different times (Monday) night,” Fish said of his team’s 84-83 victory over an experienced and talented Ragin’ Cajuns squad, “and we fought it. We kept playing. I thought last night effort-wise we played extremely hard.”
While Tyler Hall took his accustomed spot at the head of the scoring column for MSU, which he has in 19 of his 33 games as a Bobcat, the team received contributions from several spots. Junior forward Zach Green scored 16 points, as did freshman guard Harald Frey, who also led the squad with seven assists. Freshman center Devin Kirby scored a big basket at the end of the first half, his only points, and junior forward Joe Mvuezolo Jr. scrapped for a loose-ball rebound at the end of the game, drew a foul, and knocked down the free throws that provided the margin of victory.
MSU’s next opportunity comes Wednesday night, when Rocky Mountain College visits Worthington Arena. The 3-1 Battlin’ Bears feature one player extremely familiar to Fish and his staff, senior guard Riley Bradshaw. The University of Montana transfer leads the Bears with 17.3 points and 4.3 assists a game. Big man Bryden Boehning also transferred to RMC from Montana, and Fish says they set the tone.
“They’re a very aggressive team, somewhat like Washington State in that they want to play in the front side of the shot clock, 16 (seconds) and up,” he said. “They have two DI transfers and a lot of Montana kids, so it’s going to be a big game. They play tonight so we need to take advantage of that and guard them and disrupt them and get a longer, cleaner look at a game. We’ve played good in spurts but we haven’t played good for very long this year.”
While many kinks remain to be worked out, one stands out in Fish’s mind. The Cats sent Louisiana to the free throw line 54 times on Monday. “We’ve got to keep people off the foul line,” he said. “We can’t put people on the foul line 54 times on our court. We need to play with our feet and not our hands.”
Fish called the enthusiasm at Monday’s home opener “fantastic,” and hopes for more Wednesday. All MSU students in the Simms Fish Bowl, the official student section, will receive a raffle ticket with a chance for two Cat-Griz football tickets Saturday and a $50 Mackenzie River Pizza gift card. Tipoff is 7 pm.