(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN — Led by a double-double from Jubrile Belo, highlight-reel dunks from RaeQuan Battle and a near-triple-double from Darius Brown II, the Montana State men’s basketball team put the clamps down on Weber State in Saturday’s 67-52 home win.
Once again, the Bobcats (12-7, 5-1 Big Sky) pulled away with stingy half-court defense and a slew of highlight-reel plays. The Wildcats (8-10, 3-2 Big Sky), meanwhile, managed to shoot only 4-for-16 from three (25%) and committed 16 turnovers to MSU’s 10. Weber State star Dillon Jones, who came into Bozeman after having a career night in Missoula, only managed 13 points and nine rebounds, while tying the team-high with four turnovers.
“I thought we did a really good job of guarding the three-point line,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle told Bobcat Sports Radio Network. “They’re dangerous. Great Osobor, Sam Lecholat and Caleb Fuller did a great job on Dillon Jones. He’s one of the hardest guards in the league — he’s so big and fast and strong. But I thought our guys showed tremendous effort.”
Jubrile Belo had a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double — most of which came in the first half — to lead the Bobcats. RaeQuan Battle added 12 points, plus Darius Brown II stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
Weber State briefly held the lead over the Bobcats until Caleb Fuller’s first three of the night put MSU up 6-4. From there, the Bobcats tightened up on defense, staying glued to Weber State’s players as the Wildcats tried running their offense. While the Wildcats couldn’t score, MSU went on a 13-0 run after Fuller’s three, plus treys from Darius Brown II, RaeQuan Battle and a jumper from Jubrile Belo.
The Bobcats wouldn’t trail again, yet they’d weather a five-minute drought without a made field goal. Fuller’s second three of the night — a wide-open three from the wing — snapped the scoring drought to put MSU up 23-12. An 8-0 Wildcats run made it a two-possession game with 3:23 left in the half as the Wildcats tried wresting momentum from the Bobcats.
Like they have been wont to do all year, the Bobcats bolted ahead with highlight-reel plays.
Using quick hands on defense and stellar transition play, Montana State blew the game open in the final four minutes. With the shot clock winding down, Brown II found Battle for a lob, then two possessions later, Brown II stripped Jones along the baseline and cruised coast-to-coast for a left-handed layup. Then, in the blink of an eye, Brown II stole the ball from Jones again, this time leading to a windmill dunk from Battle.
“When we’re playing our best, we’re getting stops and getting out in transition,” Sprinkle said.
As the Bobcat faithful rocked the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Montana State kept playing the hits. Belo rolled along the baseline and threw down a dunk, then Brown II found Battle for another alley-oop to beat the buzzer and give the Bobcats a 39-19 lead. Saturday’s game was the third time Montana State held an opponent to 20 points or less in conference play.
Weber State wouldn’t go quietly. The Wildcats kicked off the second half with an 8-0 run, sparked by six points from Jones. MSU went nearly five minutes without scoring, save for a free throw from Sam Lecholat, who made the first field goal of the second half on the next possession. Great Osobor worked his way inside for a tough layup over Jones, then Belo drew another one of his 11 whistles on Handje Tamba to go to the charity stripe for two.
MSU’s lead ballooned to as many as 19 points with Robert Ford III’s first three of the frame, which gave the Bobcats a 51-32 lead. The Bobcat bench took over, as Nick Gazelas sank a corner three, Osobor kept scoring inside, then Ford III made another three to put Montana State up 59-40 with 7:59 to play.
“His first three was huge,” Sprinkle said. “Rob knocking down that three gave us a little bit of breathing room and gave us the confidence to get stops.”
Although the Bobcats wouldn’t make many more field goals from that point forward, the team made four-straight free throws down the stretch, then Brown II’s pull-up elbow jumper with 1:23 remaining put the exclamation point on the win. Weber State’s 52 points in the loss were tied for their lowest total of the season, while MSU has held Big Sky opponents under 70 points in its last four games.
“There are a lot of things we need to clean up, but I thought our guys had tremendous energy,” Sprinkle said. “We came out with a point to prove.”
Steven Verplancken led the way for the Wildcats with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Dyson Koehler and Daniel Rouzan also chipped in seven points apiece.
Next, the Bobcats travel to Moscow, Idaho for a 7 p.m. MT game against the Idaho Vandals.