Joe Mvuezolo subbing into the game against North Dakota. (Nick Petraccione/MTN Sports)

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

MOSCOW, Idaho – Montana State’s first game against Idaho this season was a game of seconds. Second chances, specifically. Idaho turned 16 offensive rebounds into 26 second-chance points, turning a tight contest into an 88-78 win in Moscow.

“I thought we had ourselves in good position,” said Bobcat coach Brian Fish, “but they got us 26-to-13 on second-chance points. That really flipped the game.”

The Vandals out-rebounded Montana State 24-10 in the second half, and scored 18 points on possessions extended by offensive rebounds after halftime. Senior forward Brayon Blake led all players with 14 rebounds, and also poured in 24 points for Idaho.

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The second half was streaky, and MSU streaked first by scoring on five of the team’s first seven possessions. Blevins triggered that run, scoring MSU’s first nine points of the period. MSU built its lead to 56-48 on a pair of Benson Osayande free throws with 14:40 to play.

But the Vandals answered. Beginning at the 17 minute mark, the Vandals scored on seven straight possessions. When that run ended, the Bobcat lead was 56-55 with 13:29 to play. With the game tied 58-58 moments later, the Vandals scored on five of six possessions, three of them after offensive rebounds, to grab a 68-60 lead.

This time, the Bobcats responded. Blevins hit a pair of free throws, then a triple, and after Konner Frey’s short jumper and a gravity-defying scoop shot by Devonte Klines the Cats held one last lead, 72-71 with 6:45 to play.

From that point on, though, MSU scored just twice, both on Tyler Hall three-pointers. The first drew MSU within two at 77-75 with 5:23 to play, but Sanders scored on 12 of Idaho’s final 15 points to seal the win.

A largely-even first half set the stage for what was to come, and the game was nearly even on the scoreboard and statistically. Each team shot 45%, the Vandals out-rebounded MSU 18-17 but also committed one turnover more, six to five. The Cats scored on five of their last six possession before halftime, and carried a 40-38 edge into the intermission.

Blevins scored 24 points for the Cats, while Hall added 16 and Harald Frey 10. Brayon Blake’s 24 points and 14 boards paced all players. Sanders added 21 for the Vandals, and Jordan Scott 10. Idaho shot 50% for the game, 54% in the second half, while the Cats shot 45% in each half.

Montana State falls to 13-14 overall with the loss, 6-8 in Big Sky play. Idaho remains in the hunt for a top four finish and a bye in the Big Sky Tournament by raising its record to 18-7 overall, 10-3 in the league. The Cats play at Eastern Washington on Saturday at 3 pm MT.

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