(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – Call it Tyler Time.
Trailing league-leading Northern Colorado by four with under two minutes remaining, Montana State’s senior took over. He hit a three-pointer to bring MSU within one at 66-65, hit a short jumper three ticks under a minute to give the Cats the lead, secured a steal with 5.8 seconds to play, then drained a pair of free throws to propel MSU to a 69-66 win in Greeley on Monday.
“I was excited more than anything,” he said of the opportunity to seal his team’s win late in the game. “That’s what everyone works for, that opportunity.”
Montana State trailed by 10 points in each half, the latest double-digit deficit coming five-and-a-half minutes into the second half, 47-37. “They got a couple baskets to start the second half off of offensive rebounds,” said Montana State coach Brian Fish, “but the guys showed some toughness. We turned that around.”
The Bobcats won the rebounding battle 40-36 and forced 15 turnovers while giving it away just 10 times – four in the second half. The biggest of those came with a minute remaining, when Tyler Hall rebounded a Jordan Davis jumper in traffic. That set up his jumper that gave MSU the lead.
“I thought it was a team effort defensively and on the boards,” Fish said. “To hold them to 42% shooting is a great effort. Winning the rebound battle is always a key for us.”
Hall finished with 23 points on the night. The Bobcats held UNC’s Davis, the Big Sky’s leading scorer at over 24 points a game, to 19 points on 7-for-19 shooting. It was his three-point attempt at the buzzer that fell off the mark to clinch MSU’s win.
Keljin Blevins helped spur MSU’s comeback with a second-chance basket that keyed a 9-3 Bobcat run to put the Cats into position midway through the second half. Blevins led all players with eight rebounds, while Hall and Ladan Ricketts each had five.
The game began with the Cats showing the effect of a physical, hotly-contested game less than 48 hours earlier, and UNC the rust of a nine-day layoff. The score stood 2-2 after four minutes, 9-5 Bears after eight. Well-rested Northern Colorado heated up first, spurting to a 21-11 lead with 6:34 to play in the half on the first of Trent Harris’ three first-half treys.
The Cats answered. A Keljin Blevins three-point play, back-to-back Tyler Hall triples, and a short Harald Frey jumper coming out of a time out off of a play called by Fish drew MSU within two, 24-22. Blevins then hit a layup and a three-pointer, and Devin Kirby’s two free throws pushed the Cats temporarily ahead 29-28. The Cats scored on six straight possessions late in the half, but back-to-back baskets by Kai Edwards and a floater by Jordan Davis gave UNC a 32-31 lead at halftime.
MSU forced seven Bears turnovers before halftime, but the Cats gave the ball away six times. MSU shot 33.3%, UNC 35.5%. UNC hit six free throws to MSU’s five to provide the margin of difference.
The win boosts Montana State’s record to 9-12, 6-5 in the Big Sky. Northern Colorado falls to 14-8, and at 8-3 into second place in the league. The Bobcats return home to host resurgent Eastern Washington Thursday at 7 pm.