(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN — The Montana State men’s basketball team led for only 43 seconds against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Thursday night, but the Bobcats made them count.
Great Osobor’s tip-in with 3.8 seconds remaining was the difference-maker in the Bobcats’ (16-8, 9-2 Big Sky Conference) 69-68 come-from-behind win over the Lumberjacks (6-17, 2-9 Big Sky Conference). Both MSU forwards had noteworthy games, as Jubrile Belo (19 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) broke Montana State’s career blocks record with 150, breaking Dewey Michaels (1991-95) record of 149. Osobor, to his credit, had 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting, but no shot goal was bigger than his go-ahead layup.
Darius Brown II found Osobor on the left block, who took three dribbles and finished a left-handed layup through two Lumberjack defenders. NAU’s final shot attempt wasn’t in time, and the Bobcats escaped with the win.
- “I’m happy for our kids because you have to win games ugly in conference,” Montana State Head Coach Danny Sprinkle told Bobcat Sports Radio Network. “There’s going to be nights where we’re 3-for-18 from three — and we’ve had too many of them. We have to get in the gym and take some pride in our shooting.”
The Bobcats overcame a 3-for-18 shooting night from three and a 36-28 rebounding margin favoring NAU by forcing 11 Lumberjack turnovers to their six. Both teams shot 50% from the field in the second half, which helped MSU out-shoot the Lumberjacks 43.6% to 42.9% in the game.
Northern Arizona led for 37 minutes thanks to out-shooting MSU 44.4% to 20% from three in the first half. Back-to-back threes from Trenton McLaughlin and Xavier Fuller put NAU up 8-4, then Belo’s put-back dunk pulled the Bobcats within two. Yet the home team wouldn’t get closer.
The Lumberjacks led by as many as nine points three times in the first half — first off a pull-up jumper from Jalen Cone that prompted an MSU timeout. Although some nifty interior passing between Robert Ford III, Osobor and Belo led to a layup to cut NAU’s lead to seven, the Bobcats would go the next four minutes without a field goal.
Defensively, Belo helped get the Bobcats and the crowd back in the game with two big blocks. He wiped away a would-be tomahawk dunk from Xavier Fuller with 2:50 remaining in the game, then on NAU’s next possession, Belo sent Cone’s layup attempt into the seats — complete with a stare-down as the crowd reached a fever pitch.
Those historic blocks seemed to spark the Bobcats, who used layup from Sam Lecholat to pull within six points with under a minute left in the half. Nick Gazelas then got fouled while making a corner three with five seconds left; his four-point play made it a 33-30 contest in favor of NAU at the half.
MSU came out of halftime energized, scoring four-quick points and taking a 34-33 lead off a dunk from RaeQuan Battle, who led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Yet the lead was short-lived: McLaughlin got hot and helped spark a 7-0 run that had the Bobcats playing from behind again.
The Bobcats strung together scoring plays and pulled within one, but McLaughlin had an answer each time; he wound up scoring 16 of his 19 points in the second half. Osobor’s putback at the 13:36 mark pulled MSU within one, but McLaughlin hit back-to-back threes that kept MSU at arm’s length.
Like they did in the first half, MSU had to overcome another long stretch without a made field goal, however, Osobor drew back-to-back fouls midway through the second half that put MSU in the bonus. Three free throws from Osobor, then a rim-rattling dunk from Belo pulled MSU within five points with 8:03 to go, but a layup from Cone gave NAU another seven-point lead.
Battle came through for the Bobcats with six straight points. Trailing 60-55 with 7:20 left, Battle made a layup, got fouled and hit both free throws, then made another tough shot in the paint to make it a 60-59 game with 5:29 remaining.
Trailing 63-59 at the final media timeout, Brown II’s lockdown defense nearly forced a backcourt violation from NAU. Moments later, he would break through as Osobor dove at the three-point line to deflect the ball to Brown II, who charged up the floor only to be fouled on a fastbreak layup attempt. His two free throws pulled MSU within two, then Belo fired up the crowd with his dunk to tie the game at 63 with 2:24 to play.
The Lumberjacks would split a pair of free throws on their next possession, but Xavier Fuller’s layup with 1:17 left swung momentum back into the hands of NAU. Brown II’s layup cut NAU’s lead to 66-65, which set up a pivotal MSU defensive stop.
With under 30 seconds to go, Cone tried driving left towards the NAU bench, but Belo and Patterson were there to double-team him along the baseline. Cone lost the ball, Patterson recovered it, then was fouled immediately. He made both free throws to put the Bobcats up two, then Fuller got fouled on the next possession and calmly made two free throws to put NAU up 68-67. Having less than 30 seconds to work with on their last chance to win, Brown II found Osobor for the go-ahead bucket.
Trenton McLaughlin led the way for the Lumberjacks with 19 points, most of which came from going 5-for-7 from three. Xavier Fuller added 15 points and Jalen Cone scored 13 to round out NAU’s scorers.
Next up for the Bobcats will be a home game against Northern Colorado Saturday at 4 p.m. MT