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Montana State Bobcats second half comeback trounces Idaho

Harald Frey MSU MBB
Posted at 10:57 PM, Jan 09, 2020

(Editor's note: Montana State Athletics press release)

BOZEMAN -- Montana State capitalized on a 14-2 run late in the second half and Harald Frey hit two free throws with less than 15 seconds to go to help propel the Bobcat men's basketball team to a 71-68 victory on Thursday, Jan. 9, over Idaho at Cowan Spectrum.

Idaho's Kayshaad Dixton hit a 3-pointer at the 8:41 mark of the second half to put the Vandals up 57-48. That's when Montana State began its push to get back into game.

MSU started its run with two Jubrile Belo free throws and an Amin Adamu jumper. The Vandals' Trevon Allen hit a field goal, but the Bobcats came right back. Harald Frey completed an and-one play, Ladan Ricketts knocked in a 3-pointer, then Frey scored five straight points to complete the run. The 5 minute, 35 second stretch put MSU ahead 62-59.

"It felt like we never got in a groove the whole game," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "We call it a kill when we make three straight stops and we couldn't string three of those together in a row. Offensively we'd score on possessions, then take three off. We just never got into a flow.

"Credit to the guys, we kept telling them that we'd find a way to win this game. It's going to be ugly, but the guys believed. I really thought the last 10 minutes Harald got more aggressive and he kind of took over."

Idaho wouldn't go away. MSU held a 64-63 edge, but Marquell Fraser completed a three-point play to give the Vandals a 66-64 advantage with 57 seconds remaining. Frey knocked in a jumper in the paint on the next possession and again completed an and-one opportunity, putting the Bobcats up 67-66.

Allen wound up drawing a shooting foul on Frey to go to the line. The Idaho senior guard knocked in both free throws as the Vandals re-gained the lead, 68-67, with 13 seconds to go. On the ensuing throw in, Frey was fouled by Allen. The Bobcats' senior guard knocked down both of his free throw attempts with 13.4 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Vandals' last attempt for a game-winner was unsuccessful by Allen, as Adamu hauled in a rebound and Mychael Paulo was fouled with 1.5 seconds left. Paulo connected on both of his free throws to seal the Montana State victory over Idaho.

"He controlled it offensively," Sprinkle said of Frey's performance at the end of the game. "We had some good possessions late. You feel bad for Idaho too, their best player had a foul late that allowed Harald to get to the line. But we've lost game likes that too. I'm just proud of the guys' effort."

The Bobcats trailed 37-35 at halftime but had to mount a rally to pull it within a single possession. MSU went down 16-6 just eight minutes into the contest, but responded by going on a 10-0 run. Borja Fernandez scored eight points to that point to keep MSU in striking distance. MSU was able to stay in it despite Idaho shooting 56.5% in the first half to MSU's 41.4% clip.

Montana State improved to 9-7 and 3-2 in Big Sky play with Thursday's win. The Bobcats held a 38-34 in points in the paint, out-rebounded Idaho 36-31 and committed nine turnovers, tied for their lowest total of the season. MSU also hit 21 of 26 free throws while Idaho went 15-for-20 from the charity stripe.

Those statistics checked off goals Sprinkle said the team puts a priority on.

"Before conference play started, I told the guys that it's their team," Sprinkle said. "What are your 3 goals?

"One was to win the free throw battle. We want to make more than they make and we did that. We wanted to outrebound the opponent and we did that. We wanted to have less than 12 turnovers and we had nine. If we get enough shots on goal, we'll be in it. We just need them to start falling."

The Bobcats shot 44 percent from the field in the second half while keeping the Vandals to 37.5 percent. Harald Frey scored a team-high 22 points while recording seven assists and three steals. Belo and Fernandez recorded MSU's first double-double performances of the season. Belo scored 15 points, Fernandez had 10 and the two each snagged 10 rebounds. Paulo and Ricketts each scored nine points, while Adamu had six rebounds.

Fraser scored 22 and Allen registered 20 to pace the Vandals on the scoreboard. Idaho fell to 5-10 overall and 1-3 in the league standings with the loss.

Montana State returns to Bozeman for a quick turnaround. The Bobcats face Portland State at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, in Worthington Arena.