(Editor's note: Montana State Athletics media release)
BOZEMAN -- Harald Frey and Jubrile Belo recorded 18 points apiece to lead Montana State to a coast-to-coast 66-51 win over Sacramento State in Worthington Arena on Saturday, but Bobcat head coach Danny Sprinkle saw it coming days earlier.
"I liked our mindset, and it started (in practice) on Christmas night," Sprinkle said. "Sometimes Christmas night practice can be a little sloppy, as you can imagine. A couple guys came over to my house and ate, we fed them pretty good and then ran it off that night. I could tell by the focus those guys had on Christmas night, I knew we were going to play well. I didn't know if we were going to win, but I knew we were going to play well."
Frey added seven assists and grabbed five rebounds to help pace the Bobcats. Belo went 7 of 11 from the floor as MSU out-shot the Hornets 42.4% to 34%, forced three more turnovers than Sacramento State State and out-rebounded the visitors 37-to-34. Frey's jumper less than two minutes into the game gave the Bobcats a 6-5 lead and Montana State never trailed again.
Sprinkle said the formula was simple. "It comes down to defending and rebounding," he said, "and we did that tonight."
Montana State's effort on the defensive end was there throughout the evening, as the Cats held Sacramento State to 36% shooting in the first half and 32% after the intermission. Hornets center Joshua Patton tied for game-high honors with 18 points, but he was the only Hornet with more than 10 and he scored only two points in the second half.
The Bobcats held a 36-18 edge in points in the paint while also scoring 15 points off of 14 Hornet turnovers.
Sprinkle said his team's effort showed through in its physical play. "I'm proud of our guys (for) how physical they were," he said. "That's a really good team. They're the number three-ranked defensive team in the country and I think we shot almost 44% the field and from three. We got some good looks and I'm super proud of the young guys for executing the game plan and competing."
Frey led the way and Sprinkle was pleased with his endurance and persistence. "I thought Harald played great all game," Sprinkle said. "Teams try to wear him out, but he's in such great shape and he's so smart, seven assists and only two turnovers.
"Limiting Patton on the offensive end was a group effort. Jubrile was really good, and I thought all the bigs in the second half especially were great at walling it up on Patton, because he's a load. He kicked our butt in the first half, but in the second half I thought we did a much better job being physical without fouling."
Eight different Bobcats found the scoreboard. Borja Fernandez had eight points and six rebounds for MSU, while Frey and Zeke Quinlan each had two steals.
Montana State raised its record to 7-5 overall and picked up the Big Sky-opening win on its home floor. Sacramento State fell to 7-3 overall dropping just its second contest of the month. Montana State hosts Northern Arizona Monday in Worthington Arena at 7 p.m.