Tyler Hall (3) looks for room to operate. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)

BOZEMAN – After playing its only home game in a 25-day span, Montana State begins a two-game road trip with a Saturday afternoon contest at Milwaukee.

The Bobcats (5-3) topped Bethesda 98-61 in a game that fourth-year head coach Brian Fish called “Just what we needed” Wednesday, with all 12 active players cracking the scoring column. “We’ll watch film and everyone will be able to see a shot go in,” Fish said with a smile.

But it was his team’s work on the other end of the floor that he’s most anxious to review in advance of games against Milwaukee and Central Michigan, two teams he considers “teams that would be right at the top of the Big Sky.” Montana State limited the Flames to 36% shooting and out-rebounded Bethesda 56-to-27. “I thought we cleaned some things up defensively with our talk and our switches,” Fish said. “We got better, but we’re going to need to continue that this week against really good competition.”

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The road trip begins with a 5-2 Milwaukee team in Panther Arena, which for many years was known as the MECCA and played home to the great Milwaukee Bucks teams of the 1970s and ‘80s. Guard Brock Stull, numbingly consistent last season with 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, posts similar numbers this year for first-year coach Pat Baldwin. Forward Bryce Nze gives UWM inside balance, averaging 11.0 points and 7.7 rebounds.

“This is an athletic, experienced team,” Fish said. “They’re very impressive, with a win at Iowa State. That really gets your attention.”

Milwaukee hammered Iowa State 74-56 in Ames in mid-November, and also owns wins over Northern Illinois and Florida International. The Panthers’ losses came to Concordia-St. Paul and Wisconsin.

The Panthers out-rebound their opponents by four per game, 34.9-to-30.9, and score 71% of their points from inside the three-point circle or the free throw line. MSU gets slightly less of its points in a similar fashion, although the Cats shoot 22.4 charity shots a game to UWM’s 15.9 and converts at a 71.5% rate to Milwaukee’s 66.7%. Montana State also hits 40% of its three-pointers, to Milwaukee’s 31%.

MSU and the Panthers get together at 2 pm MT/3 pm CT. The Cats remain on the road after Saturday’s game, traveling to Central Michigan for a Tuesday tilt.

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