(Editor’s note: Montana State Athletics release)
BOZEMAN — The offensive numbers were gaudy. Montana State scored a season-high 98 points, shot 53.6% from the floor, and Tyler Hall poured in 32 points. But Brian Fish was most pleased with something else entirely.
“I thought the key to the game was rebounding,” Montana State’s fifth-year head coach said of his team’s 38-to-30 rebounding advantage over Portland State in a 98-88 Bobcat win in Bozeman on Thursday. “They’re the top rebounding team in the league, they send a lot of guys to the boards. But I thought we set the tone early, we (boxed out).”
Montana State’s win (5-8 overall, 2-1 Big Sky) came in the team’s first home game in 37 days, against a Portland State (5-8, 0-2) team known for its prowess forcing turnovers and winning the rebounding battle. Fish liked the way his team handled PSU’s pressure. “I thought they were very effective in spurts,” he said. “They want to get you going. But after their spurts we got back and got some layups, some easy shots.”
After a couple of quick Portland State baskets, Montana State built a lead it would never relinquish. Hall’s three-pointer just over four minutes into the first half gave the Bobcats a 12-9 lead. A dunk by Keljin Blevins and a triple by Hall pushed the Bobcat lead to 17-9. Portland State whittled the lead to two on a Michael Mayhew three-pointer at the nine minute mark, 27-25, but Hall capped a 16-6 run with two free throws to push MSU’s lead to 43-31 with 2:16 left before halftime. The Cats led 48-38 at the intermission.
Montana State started the second half with a Keljin Blevins jumper, and used a 10-2 run starting at the 16:44 mark to build a 64-47 lead. MSU maintained a double-digit lead until Holland Woods’ triple with 2:45 to play. A Deante Strickland cute the MSU lead to 90-84 at 2:25, but Harald Frey and Devin Kirby each hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to 10. MSU made all six of its free throw attempts in the final 2:20 to ice the win.
MSU’s 53.6% shooting game was its best mark of the season against a Division I opponent. Hall’s 32 points was the 15th of his career, and coupled with Frey’s 25 points gave the high-scoring duo their 44th game out of 75 that each passed the 20-point mark. Frey also became the 38th Bobcat to pass the 1,000 career point plateau, and dished out seven assists while adding three steals.
Woods and Mayhew each scored 17 points to pace the Vikings. The Vikings shot 44% from the floor, and logged assists on 16 of their 26 field goals. Each team made a dozen three-pointers on the game.
The Bobcats turn things around quickly, hosting Sacramento State at 2 pm on Saturday. Portland State visits Montana on Saturday.