(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN -- The Montana State men's basketball team played clutch down the stretch en route to a 71-64 victory over Portland State on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 in Worthington Arena. The Bobcats improved to 6-3 overall and 3-0 in Big Sky play while the Vikings fell to 2-6 and 1-2 in conference action.
The Bobcats and Viks started the contest out in a low-scoring, physical affair as the two teams each registered 10 turnovers in the first half. Portland State held a 27-25 lead before Montana State picked up some momentum.
A Borja Fernandez 3-pointer jump-started a 12-2 run over the final 4 minutes, 32 seconds of the opening period. Mike Hood converted on a 3-pointer to cap the scoring spree with a team-high 11 points at the time to put the 'Cats up 37-29 at halftime.
The Viks trimmed the deficit to one multiple times during the second half and trailed 59-58 with 5:22 remaining. MSU again held off a Portland State rally.
The Bobcats knocked down three free throws to push the lead to four. Jubrile Belo, following a block on a dunk attempt by PSU's Amari McCray, connected with Mike Hood on the ensuing possession who knocked in his third 3-pointer of the night. Two free throws by Abdul Mohamed would seal an 8-0 MSU run over 2:45 to put the Bobcats up eight with 2:37 to play.
Leading by six with 42 seconds on the clock remaining, Amin Adamu made a contested layup on a feed from Xavier Bishop to put the game out of reach.
Belo led MSU by tallying his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also had a season-high four blocks.
"I thought Jubrile was huge the last 6 or 7 minutes," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "It seemed like (Portland State) was making every single shot, but the only ones they didn't make were the ones (Jubrile) blocked.
"Then our guys got some scramble rebounds. Xavier made a great pass to Amin which was kind of a backbreaker. We took care of the ball and made our free throws down the stretch."
Hood and Fernandez each played important roles off the bench. Hood scored a team-high 19 points in 28 minutes while Fernandez tallied 13 points and seven rebounds. The two, along with Belo, combined to go 17-for-27 (63%) from the floor.
"Mike was tremendous tonight," Sprinkle said. "I thought his energy from the second he checked into the game, he was the difference. He came in and got two buckets right away. We needed that because we were a little low on energy to start the game."
Mohamed nearly got into double digits on the boards with nine rebounds. Bishop had a game-high seven assists. The Bobcats outshot the Vikings from the field (44.2%-36.5%) and out-rebounded them 40-38.
The Vikings were led by James Scott who registered 23 points and 14 rebounds. Elijah Hardy scored 17 points for Portland State while McCray had eight points and four blocks.
The two teams return for game to of their back-to-back Big Sky Conference series in Worthington Arena Saturday. Tipoff time is scheduled for 12 p.m. (noon) with the game being broadcast by SWX Montana and airs on Pluto TV.