(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – Montana State scored 25 of its 86 points from the free throw line and five players netted double-digits as the Bobcats beat Idaho 86-72 in Worthington Arena on Saturday.
Montana State coach Brian Fish said free throw shooting can be a momentum thing, and the Cats got rolling in the first half. Harald Frey converted MSU’s the game’s first free throws eight-and-a-half minutes into the game, then Ladan Ricketts hit three. Two more from Frey, then five straight by Sam Neumann, all in the first half, and Fish knew he had something going.
“You’d be shocked how when the first three or four free throws go how everything kind of goes (well) after that,” he said. “And if you miss three or four it goes that way, too. Sam stuck them, went nine for nine, and we really got going.”
The Bobcats shot well from the floor as well, 54%, including 60.9% in the second half. The hot streak began late in the first half, with the Bobcats leading 31-27 after Idaho’s Geno West hit one of his three three-pointers. Neumann’s four free throws launched a 12-3 run that gave MSU control of the game. The Cats entered halftime leading 45-32.
Fish liked his team’s effort Saturday. “I thought our energy was great,” he said. “I thought it was excellent.”
The start of the second half offered more of what the end of the first half provided for the Bobcats. MSU made eight of its first 11 field goal tries and its first five free throws in the second half, and by then led 67-48 with 10:11 to play. That is the point at which MSU missed its first free throw of the game – by Frey, one of the steadiest hands from the line in the league this year – was the team’s first miss of the game. It snapped a string of 19 straight.
The Bobcats scored 32 points in the paint on Saturday, which Fish said was in response to Idaho’s defense. “We knew they were going to try to run us off the three-point line,” he said, “and their physicality startled us a little bit. But then we came back and had our chin going at the rim, and I thought that was because DK (Devin Kirby) got us set there and I thought Sam (Neumann) did a fabulous job when he subbed in of rolling to that little honey hole area and finishing and drawing fouls and going nine-for-nine.”
Frey led a balanced Bobcat attack, scoring 17 points and dealing seven assists with only one turnover. He also grabbed five rebounds. Keljin Blevins added 16 points on five-for-eight shooting, and added a perfect four-for-four effort from the line. Devin Kirby scored 14 points, while Tyler Hall and Sam Neumann scored 13 points each.
Montana State won its third straight game Saturday to raise its record to 8-5 in the Big Sky Conference, 11-12 overall. Idaho is now 1-11 in the league, 4-19 overall. The Bobcats’ next contest is at Idaho State on Thursday.