BOZEMAN – Saturday marks the first installment of Cat-Griz for 2019 as Montana State hosts the University of Montana in a basketball doubleheader. But even before tipoff, the Bobcat men know they are underdogs.
“This would just be a statement win,” said MSU senior center Sam Neumann. “They’re probably expected to win with how they’ve been playing. It would be really big for us to come out and play well and get a win.”
The Grizzlies are currently second in the Big Sky Conference with a 7-2 league record and are 14-6 overall. Meanwhile, the Cats are two spots below at 5-4 but hold a below-.500 overall record at 8-11. A big reason Montana is coming in as a favorite is its strong backcourt led by Ahmaad Rorie and powerful inside game led by reigning Big Sky player of the week Jamar Akoh.
In order for the Cats to contain those threats, Neumann said his team needs to execute two things on Saturday night.
“It’s defensive rebounding for us. We’re going to score. We’ve got guys that can put the ball in the hole at an amazing rate, but it’s getting those key stops. We saw it a little bit in the first half against Idaho State where we did get some of those stops and fed off that energy, but then we had a little lapse in the second half. We got to cut that out,” said Neumann. “We have to play a really, really, really close to perfect game in order to get this one. Whenever we get beat on the boards by the other team, we have a hard time clawing out of that hole. Those two things are big things for us, keeping their field goal percentage down and beating them on the boards.”
Montana State is riding momentum into Cat-Griz. In their last game against Idaho State, the Bobcats scored their highest point total of the season in a 104-84 win. They will look to bring that offensive explosiveness when they tip off against Montana at 7 p.m. Saturday inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.