(Editor’s note — Montana State Athletics release)
BOZEMAN — Locked in an offensive slugfest with Idaho State in Worthington Arena on Saturday afternoon, up by seven points midway through the second half, Montana State needed a spark. The Bobcats looked for separation, a spurt.
And the Cats found it in junior guard Harald Frey.
“Not unexpected,” Bobcat coach Brian Fish said of Frey’s 31-point explosion that led to Montana State’s 104-84 win. “He’s a good player who can do that. But his mental aspect in that game (was) way bigger than 31 points and five assists. He got us going, he got going downhill, attacking the basket, making plays, getting it out of his hands, playing at a different pace. He made hustle plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
The Bobcats led most of the night, much of it by double-digits, but when Brandon Boyd made two free throws and a layup, and Balint Mocsan added a layup, ISU trailed by just four with 10:35 to play. Then, after Devin Kirby pushed the lead back to seven with a free throw and a layup, Frey went off.
With 9:14 to play, he hit a three pointer to push MSU’s lead to 10. Frey answered an ISU baske with a layup, then hit a three-pointer, and another three-pointer, and by the time the dust settled the Bobcats held a commanding 85-71 lead with 7:36 to play. Montana State’s lead never dwindled below 10 again.
The final stats point to an offense-oriented afternoon. Idaho State shot 55.4% from the floor and made half its 22 three-point shots. Montana State somehow topped hat, shooting a season-high 57.7% and turning the ball over only five times, the fewest since committing three in 2013-14. The Cats assisted on 20 of their 41 made shots and hit a dozen triples.
Fish attributed his team’s offensive efficiency to an unselfish approach. “I though the ball movement was really good,” he said. “We got that 15-point lead and lost the sense of urgency which had been so good, but to the guys’ credit they regrouped and found that again.”
Frey thought something entirely different fueled the Bobcats. “I think it fed off our defense,” he said. “If you look at (the stats) it doesn’t look like it, but we did force 17 turnovers and that’s a big factor… I think we played much harder on defense today.
While Frey was matching his career-high point total on 12-for-20 shooting, 6-for-11 from beyond the arc, a pair of seniors added plenty of offensive punch, as well. Tyler Hall scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Keljin Blevins’ 16 points included several rafter-rattling dunks. “When (Frey and Hall) have good games it makes everything easier for me,” Blevins said.
While each team posted gaudy shooting numbers, the script flipped somewhat at the half. MSU shot 51% in the first half to build a 45-36 lead in spite of Idaho State’s 59% shooting. In the second half, though, MSU shot 64.7% and held the Bengals to 52.9% shooting.
Fish said that, eye-catching as they were, the shooting numbers may mislead. “There are things that are deceptive,” he said. “They shot the ball well in the first half, they were 58%, but when you add in 13 turnovers, that’s 13 possessions, that takes them down around 30%. So the stats can mislead you.”
The win snaps a three-game Bobcat losing streak, and gives the team a boost heading into next Saturday’s Cat-Griz doubleheader in Bozeman. Montana State is now 8-11 overall, 5-4 in Big Sky play, while ISU is 7-11 overall, 3-6 in the league.