(Editor’s note: Montanan State University press release)
BOZEMAN – The script flipped, finally.
Out-scored after halftime in five straight games, four of them losses, Montana State rode a 19-4 run coming out of the intermission to a 69-66 victory over Southern Utah in Bozeman on Saturday. MSU’s Tyler Hall led all players with 23 points and the Cats held SUU to 37.5% shooting in the second half.
“I thought we fell back and got stops (late in the game),” Fish said of his team’s resolve to win Saturday. “It was a mindset, and toughness. I knew what they were gonna do and Todd (Simon, Southern Utah’s head coach) knew was we were gonna do. We missed some free throws and I didn’t see heads drop, we missed some layups and we kept playing. You have to play through adversity and I’m proud of the guys for doing that.”
After trailing for much of the first half, including a 25-15 lead after James McGee three-pointer at 8:35, the Cats took the lead for good on a layup by Hall with 17:24 to play in the game. That ignited a 13-0 run, and Montana State never trailed again.
“The first half was pretty streaky for both sides,” said Bobcat senior Konner Frey. “They would go on a run, we’d go on a run, but I think to get rid of streakiness it comes down to consistency on defense. Shots come and go, but as long as your consistent defensively you can limit those streaks.”
The shots came and went for the Cats in the second half. After hitting seven of its first 11 shots after halftime, Montana State made just one basket in the final 12 minutes. The dreadful shooting was mitigated by aggressive play that netted the Bobcats 13 points from the line (on 17 attempts) in the second period.
Montana State built a lead as big as a dozen points on Hall’s triple with 12:41 to play, but Southern Utah took advantage of MSU’s cold shooting to chip away at the lead. The 10-0 Thunderbirds run ended with Keljin Blevins’ layup with 6:03 to play, and from there the teams played on mostly even terms. MSU’s lead never surpassed five points, but it also never vanished.
Hall punctuated his best scoring game in three weeks by hitting all eight of his free throws. Four of them came in the game’s final minute, and capped a game in which MSU converted 17 of their 25 free throws while Southern Utah managed just 3-for-6 free throw shooting.
Devonte Klines scored in double-digits for the second straight game for MSU, the first time he’s done that this season, getting 12 points. Konner Frey scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds. Jamal Aytes scored 22 points for Southern Utah and joined Blevins and Hall with eight boards each. SUU’s Dwayne Morgan scored 11 points with nine rebounds.
Montana State raised its record to 12-10 overall and 5-4 in Big Sky play, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Thunderbirds now stand 8-12, 2-7. The Bobcats visit North Dakota for the final meeting between the two as league rivals on Thursday. Tipoff is 6 pm MT.