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Second-half barrage lifts Montana State men over Weber State at Big Sky tourney

Montana State men's basketball
Posted at 8:43 PM, Mar 11, 2024

BOISE, Idaho — Weber State coach Eric Duff didn't have much explanation. That was after the Wildcats didn't have any answer for Montana State's inexplicably hot shooting.

MSU, trailing by 13 points early after halftime, went on a scoring barrage in the second half Monday night to claim a 91-82 quarterfinal victory over Weber State at the Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournament at Idaho Central Arena.

"We all clicked," said Bobcats guard Robert Ford III, who had a big hand in the win. "Coach talked about everyone being their best selves."

The numbers were staggering: After halftime, the Bobcats shot 75% as a team (21 for 28), made 10 of 14 3-pointers and at one point went through a stretch in which they made 14 consecutive field goals.

It resulted in a 66 second-half points and sends No. 5 seed and two-time reigning tourney champion Montana State into the semifinal round where it will face Sacramento State, the No. 10 seed that upset No. 1 Eastern Washington in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

"Credit to them," a shrugging Duff said of the Bobcats in the postgame press conference. "They kept making 3s over hands, and I thought a couple times we maybe even got a piece of the ball and they made it. That was really the difference. It comes down to who's going to step up and make shots."

The trio of Ford, Brian Goracke and Tyler Patterson was the linchpin for MSU's second-half outburst. Ford scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half. Goracke had 18 of his 25 after halftime and Patterson scored 12 after being shut out in the opening 20 minutes.

Goracke shot 4 for 4 from the arc in the second half, at one point banking in a long 3 as the shot clock expired. Patterson made 3 of 5 from deep. For the game, the Bobcats hit 13 3s and made 16 of 18 from the foul line.

"We put in the work. We try to prepare ourselves as best we can (for) when those moments and opportunities present themselves," Goracke said. "We didn't have a great first half offensively. In the second half things started clicking and guys stepped up, shot the ball with confidence and shots went in."

Defensively, MSU did its best to neutralize Weber State star and potential NBA draft pick Dillon Jones. Jones had 19 points but shot 4 for 11 after halftime without a 3-point basket.

Montana State outscored Weber State 66-48 in the game's final 20 minutes, a similar scenario to what happened last Monday in MSU's 76-64 win over Weber State in the regular-season finale.

The Bobcats, now 15-17 overall, are into the Big Sky semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, but this appearance is different because it comes in coach Matt Logie's first season leading the MSU program — and with a rebuilt roster at the tail end of a season full of peaks and valleys.

"We've been pushing towards March from the beginning," Logie said. "We knew that in the long run we were starting maybe a little bit behind some of the (other Big Sky) programs because of the transition phase we went through and we had to play catch up and ride that roller coaster.

"There's no satisfaction other than, you know, I'm happy that the guys have seen the proof in the pudding and sticking together and continue to grow through those valleys that we had earlier in the year."