Montana State Sports Information release
BOZEMAN–Brian Fish saw it coming early.
“On their first two plays they scored inside and got it going right there,” Montana State’s fourth-year head coach said after UC Santa Barbara beat his team 91-69 in Worthington Arena on Saturday afternoon. “I think (UCSB’s offense was effective) because they established their inside game. They had a purpose today. We knew what their purpose would be, but we didn’t get it done.”
Jalen Canty converted those two early baskets, and his 5-for-6 shooting paced a Gauchos squad that shot 57% on the afternoon and 61% in the second half. Each of the six UCSB players that shot at least four times shot 50% or better, and the Gauchos hit nine of their 18 three-point attempts.
The teams played on even terms for much of the first half, but a 9-0 Guachos run around the 10 minute mark gave the visitors control. The Bobcats pulled to within four with four minutes left in the half on an Isaac Bonton layup, but UCSB pushed the lead to nine at halftime, 40-31.
The Bobcats threw multiple defensive looks at the team that entered weekend play ranked 43rd in the NCAA RPI rankings, but getting traction was difficult. “We tried throwing something different at them, trying to get stops,” said MSU center Sam Neumann. “But our defense was awful today, (including) me personally.”
UC Santa Barbara began the second half as it had the first, with a layup from Canty. The teams battled for three-and-a-half minutes, with MSU pulling to within six on a Tyler Hall free throw, but the Gauchos steadily pulled away. Back-to-back layups by Gabe Vincent, the second one of five and-one plays in the second half for UCSB, pushing the lead to 11. Vincent finished with 20 points, and Leland King II led all players with 25 points. His 10 rebounds gave him five straight double-doubles.
A Harald Frey jumper with 15:40 to play trimmed the lead to nine, but a Max Heidegger layup and free throw pushed the lead back to double-digits, where it stayed the remainder of the day. Heidegger finished with 19 points.
Tyler Hall led the Bobcats with 19 points, while Joe Mvuezolo Jr. scored a dozen. Harald Frey added 10.
Saturday’s game ends a string of 11 games in 29 days for the Bobcats, eight of them away from Worthington Arena, and the Bobcats don’t play again until December 18. Neumann said the respite from game action will be welcome. “It will, but especially from a practice standpoint,” he said. “It will be good to get in the gym and practice.”
Montana State enters finals week on Monday. MSU’s next game is a December 18 contest against Denver in Worthington Arena. Three days later the Bobcats end non-conference with a game at Omaha.