(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – Montana State rode to four Big Sky wins in its first five league games of the season on the strength of what Bobcat coach Brian Fish calls toughness stats. On Monday in Worthington Arena, Northern Colorado flipped the script.
“At the end of the day they won the toughness things,” Fish said after UNC beat the Bobcats 73-70. “Points in the paint, points off turnovers, rebounding. Those are things we’d been good at, but we weren’t tonight. Credit them.”
Northern Colorado led for all but about four minutes, although the Bears never had full control until a Hail Mary pass by the Bobcats with three seconds left fell short. Bobcat guard Tyler Hall’s potential game-tying three-pointer with 13 seconds to play fell off the mark, and Northern Colorado was able to convert three of its final four free throws to seal the win.
The Bears built double-digit leads in both halves, but the Bobcats countered every time. MSU trimmed a 10-point UNC lead with 11:47 to play in the first half with triples by Hall and Ladan Ricketts. The Cats cut into a seven-point halftime deficit with free throws by Hall and a jumper by Frey, then used 9-0 run starting at the 16:49 mark to grab a 48-46 lead with 14:24 to play. Freshman Bodie Hume answered with a triple for the Bears to start a 10-0 run, and the Cats never led again.
Fish said his team couldn’t quite answer Northern Colorado’s defensive intensity. “We were scoring in the second half,” he said, “but we were giving up easier baskets than we were scoring.”
The subtext of Monday’s contest was Tyler Hall’s pursuit of the Big Sky Conference all-time scoring record, set by Eastern Washington’s Bogdan Bliznyuk at 2,169 last spring. Hall entered the UNC tilt with 2,143 points, and scored 25 to leave him one shy. Hall will look for history at EWU’s Reese Court Saturday, when Montana State faces the Eagles at 3 pm MT.
The record, Hall said, doesn’t enter his conscious thought. “I don’t think about that stuff,” the senior said of the unending string of landmarks he’s reached in the last couple of seasons. “If we get a win and I don’t score, that’s fine with me.”
Devin Kirby was the only other Bobcat in double-digits scoring on Monday, getting 10 points with two assists and two blocked shots. Keljin Blevins snagged 10 rebounds, and Harald Frey grabbed six boards and dished out six assists. Northern Colorado rode a more balanced attack. Star guard Jordan Davis, averaging over 20 points a game, managed only 15 points, but Bodie Hume scored 16, Trent Harris 14 on 4-for-5 three-point shooting, and Jalen Sanders added 10.
The win left UNC at the top of the Big Sky with a 5-1 conference record, 11-6 overall. MSU is now 4-2 in the league, 7-9 overall.