(Editor’s note: Montana State University media release)
CEDAR CITY, Utah — Tyler Hall scored 36 points and Harald Frey added 30 to lead Montana State to a 104-99 win at Southern Utah in the Big Sky opener for both teams.
And while Brian Fish was obviously pleased with the Bobcat offense – “We shot the ball really well, and I thought that would come at some point,” said Montana State’s fourth-year head coach – he was also happy with his team’s work on the other end of the floor. “(Southern Utah is) a good team, and this is going to sound crazy, but I liked our defensive effort. I liked our fight.”
Hall scored 36 points, his 11th career 30-point game, while Harald Frey added a career-high 30 points. It marked the first time since 1971 that two Bobcats scored at least 30 points in the same game. Montana State shot 54.1%, its best game against a Division I opponent this season and the first time the team has topped 50% shooting in each half.
Still, Fish was pleased with his team’s defense. “I thought we threw some things at them (defensively) and the guys made it work,” he said. “I thought the post defense was good, but we gave up some offensive rebounds for putbacks and that made the numbers look a little worse than it was. The narrative of our defense has to change, and I thought it was better tonight.”
The Bobcats led for over 36 minutes of the game, and MSU jumped on the Thunderbirds early. The Cats led by as many as 11 with 8:38 to play in the first half, but SUU’s 25-8 run flipped the script and gave the Thunderbirds a 42-36 lead with 3:58 to play in the half. But MSU responded with a 13-4 run of its own, and carried a 49-46 lead into the intermission.
While the lead never again reached double figures, it also never dissipated. The Cats shot 56% in the second half, holding SUU to 48%. Montana State also held a narrow advantage in rebounding (15-to-14) and turnovers (six forced, five surrendered) after halftime. Southern Utah stayed in the game at the free throw line. “We put them on the line too many times,” Fish said, “but part of that is a product of how aggressive they were.”
Fish was as impressed with Southern Utah as he was pleased with the victory. “(Southern Utah) was picked to finish 12th in our league and if they’re the 12th-best team in our league we deserve two teams in the (NCAA) tournament. That’s a good team. Our league is good. To get a win in the first league game, on the road, against a good team, will make that bus ride (Thursday night) a little easier.”
The Bobcats won their league opener for the first time since 2013-14, and began Big Sky play 1-0 with a road victory for the first time since topping Eastern Washington exactly 11 years ago. MSU is now 8-6 on the season, 1-0 in league, while Southern Utah is 6-6, 0-1. Montana State visits Northern Arizona Saturday at 5 pm MT, with the game available on the Bobcat Radio Network around Montana and on msubobcats.com, with video on WatchBigSky.com and the Pluto TV app.