(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – On Senior Night, a pair of juniors led the Bobcats.
Guard Harald Frey scored 32 points and forward Ladan Ricketts added 21 to lead Montana State to a 90-83 win over Southern Utah in Worthington Arena. The Cats moved to 11-7 in Big Sky play, and coupled with Idaho State’s win over Weber State now stand alone in third place. But that wasn’t the focus on Monday night.
The focus was on sending out a sensational senior class “the right way,” as Frey put it. “It was a special night, and that’s a special group of guys.”
Led by Tyler Hall, Montana State’s special set of seniors contributed plenty to Monday’s win. Hall couldn’t quite calibrate the jumper, although he scored 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Finding many other ways to contribute, as he’s done all season, Hall grabbed seven rebounds, dished out five assists, and made one steal. That takeaway came at a key moment in the contest.
With Montana State trailing 46-39 just under four minutes into the second half, Ricketts hit a three-pointer. Hall’s steal came on the next possession, and he found senior Keljin Blevins ahead of the pack, racing toward the MSU basket. Hall threw a beautiful pass that hit Blevins in stride, and the senior slammed home a dunk.
“It seemed like whenever we got some momentum they had an answer,” said Montana State coach Brian Fish. And indeed, the Thunderbirds used a14-7 spurt to recapture a nine-point lead. It was a Frey three-pointer at 12:04 that started Montana State’s comeback, and this time it took. On MSU’s next possession, Frey hit a step-back three-pointer in traffic to cut the lead to 60-57. After turnovers on the next three possession, Frey hit a short jumper in the lane and converted an and-one opportunity to tie the game.
The Cats weren’t done. Ricketts hit a three-pointer, then Blevins notched another layup, and MSU’s lead was 65-60 with 9:02 to play. That was the middle section of a 23-4 run that gave the Bobcats control they’d never relinquish.
“We took care of the ball, we shared the ball, we played with more purpose, we played for each other,” Frey said of Montana State’s second-half dominance. The Cats also simply shot better after the intermission – by a long way. MSU entered halftime trailing 40-33 and shooting 33.3%. In the second half, the Bobcats shot 18-for-29, 62.1%, and hit 9-of-15 from beyond the arc (60.0%). It was MSU’s best shooting half in the last eight games.
In addition to his 32 points – his fourth game this season of at least 30, and his second in a row – Frey dished out six assists without a turnover. His seven rebounds marked the sixth time in his last seven outings that he’s had at least five.
The Bobcats don’t get much time to rest. The team heads to the West Coast on Wednesday for a Thursday contest at Sacramento State. MSU finishes the regular season on Saturday at Portland State. Both games begin at 8 pm MT.