Tyler Hall (3) advances the ball. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

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

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Tyler Hall’s buzzer-beating three-pointer fell off the mark, and North Dakota registered a 75-74 win over Montana State in Grand Forks on Thursday.

The finish capped a game of wild back-and-forths, with MSU scoring nine points in the game’s final 110 seconds to give the team a chance for a road win. Harald Frey led all players with 21 points for MSU, and scored six of those nine in the closing flurry.

“We did a lot of good things,” Bobcat coach Brian Fish said, “but we were nicked by that old bug of not being able to knock down (three-point) shots. We got to the line 30 times, we dominated the boards, but we were 4-for-23 (on three-pointers), they just weren’t going down.”

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As they did last week against Southern Utah, the Bobcats opened the second half with a flourish. The Cats scored on the first seven possessions of the second stanza to turn a 38-33 deficit into a 47-40 lead. MSU shot 42.3% in the second half, and hit three of its four three-pointers after the intermission.

After playing from behind most of the first half, the Cats played from in front for much of the second. The Fighting Hawks recaptured the lead just in front of the eight minute mark, though, and when Dale Jones hit a three-pointer with 6:51 to play North Dakota had built a 62-58 lead.

The Cats battled back. Tyler Hall’s two free throws at 5:34 pushed MSU into the lead at 65-64, but a three-and-a-half minute MSU dry spell coincided with a run of five straight North Dakota possessions that resulted in points. When Geno Crandall hit a pair of free throws with 1:28 to play, Fighting Hawks led 75-68.

“I thought the guys kept fighting,” Fish said. “Getting the last stop to set up (the potential winning) shot was a positive. We just didn’t get the shot to fall.”

North Dakota came out firing to begin the game. After a Bobcat stop, UND scored on five straight possessions to grab a 14-2 lead. The Fighting Hawks finished the half with a flourish, as well, scoring on four of the last five possessions. Dale Jones hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give UND a 38-33 cushion, but in between it was mostly Bobcats. After North Dakota’s initial charge, and before Jones’ triple, the Cats out-scored the Fighting Hawks 31-21.

Montana State shot 38.6% from the floor, its sixth straight under 45% shooting, and Thursday’s contest marked the third time in the last five games the Bobcats hit four three-pointers or less. The Cats finished 26-for-30 from the free throw line, while North Dakota hit 16 of its 20 charity tosses, and MSU out-rebounded the Fighting Hawks 43-to-30. That was the team’s biggest rebounding margin since +16 against Northern Colorado, and its biggest in a road game this season.

Frey’s 21-point effort marked his first over 20 since December 28, when his 30 points led the Cats to a league-opening win at Southern Utah. Keljin Blevins scored 14, and Zach Green’s 10 points marked his first double-digit scoring game of the season.

The loss drops Montana State to 12-11 on the season, 5-5 in Big Sky play. North Dakota is 8-14 overall, 3-7 in conference play. The Cats face Northern Colorado at 2 pm Saturday in Greeley, Colorado.

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