(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – Montana State scored 109 points, hit 15 three-pointers and shot 53.5% from the floor Wednesday to beat UM Western 109-81 in Bozeman, but it was factors that can’t be measured that pleased Brian Fish the most.
“The controllables,” he said in establishing the strongest positives he saw from his team in the win. “Energy, effort, I thought we controlled those things really well tonight.”
The measurable factors, and those beyond quantification, helped lead the Bobcats to a win that, while comfortable in the end, was never easy. The Bobcats built a big early lead, but Western had answers. MSU scored 16 of the game’s first 18 points over the first four minutes, spurred by three three-pointers and three free throws from Tyler Hall, but by the 3:20 mark UMW had trimmed the lead to four. A pair of free throws by Harald Frey and a short jumper by Luke Schultz pushed the Bobcats lead to 51-41 at the intermission.
The teams played on even terms for most of the second half, but that is eventually what doomed the Bulldogs. Western came out of the intermission scoring hot, hitting 11 of its first 12 shots of the half. But in that span, which covered the first eight minutes, the Bulldogs could pull as close as four points only once. With 11:04 to play Hall buried a three-pointer to push MSU’s lead to 11 at 80-69, then a layup by Devonte Klines and another Hall triple gave MSU a 15-point lead, and the outcome was never again in doubt.
Hall’s performance was brilliant. He scored 32 points, tied for his seventh-most and tied for 32nd in school history. He was 7-for-8 from the arc, and dished out three assists. Frey was much Hall’s equal, particularly for his ability to fill the positive boxes in the box score. He scored 16 points with a game-high eight rebounds, dished out six assists without a turnover, and had two steals.
Frey had an explanation for MSU’s offensive effectiveness. “We moved the ball really well,” he said of an effort that netted the Cats 24 assists on their 38 baskets. “It’s always easier to score off a pass, and it’s good when you can make your everyone else better.”
Montana State’s 15 triples was the seventh-highest total in school history, and while the 109 points falls just outside MSU’s all-time top 10, it is the most scored by a Brian Fish-coached team.
The Bobcats leave on an extensive road trip this weekend, playing at Louisiana Tech on Saturday at 6 pm MT. The team continues south, playing games in Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday (Binghamton, 10:30 am MT) and Wednesday (Cal State Northridge or Southeast Missouri, time TBA). On Sunday, the Bobcats play at Fresno State.
Montana State is now 2-1 on the season, while UM Western, which played Wednesday’s game as an exhibition, is 3-0.