(Editor's note: Montana State University media release)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Montana State jumped out to a lead from the start and held Northern Arizona to its second worst shooting game of the season as the Bobcats won 63-57 on Saturday, Feb. 29, over the Lumberjacks in the Walkup Skydome.
The Bobcats improved to 15-14 overall and 9-9 in Big Sky Conference men's basketball play behind a regular season sweep of NAU. The Lumberjacks fell to 16-12 and 10-9 in the Big Sky.
"I'm super proud of the guys," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "I really challenged them before the game. It was going to be a gut check without Amin (Adamu). We basically played seven guys, but even the guys on the bench had great attitudes.
"We played our best defense I think of late and this was probably our best win of the season under the circumstances. Especially with how NAU has been playing. It was a heck of an effort from these guys."
MSU took control of the game early. The Bobcats jumped out to a 16-4 edge through the contest's first 10 minutes behind a 3-for-5 start from the 3-point line with two coming from Ladan Ricketts. NAU missed its first 11 attempts from beyond the arc before one fell though with under six minutes remaining in the first half.
The Lumberjacks cut the deficit to 7 in the first half, but a Borja Fernandez layup and two Jubrile Belo free throws pushed MSU's advantage back to double digits at the 2:54 mark. Two NAU free throws with a second left on the clock made it a 30-21 Montana State lead at halftime.
The two teams traded baskets through the first five minutes of the second half before the Lumberjacks again trimmed the Bobcat edge to 7. MSU responded on the ensuing possession with a Fernandez layup, then Belo completed an and-one to again create a double-digit cushion.
Montana State went up by 18 with 3:45 remaining after three Harald Frey free throws. Northern Arizona went on a 12-0 run to the end the game, but the Lumberjacks ran out of time as the Bobcats came away with the 63-57 road victory.
The Bobcats held the Jacks to 19 of 60 (31.7%) from the field. It was NAU's lowest shooting percentage since their season-opening loss to then No. 17/21 Arizona. MSU kept NAU at bay from deep with the Jack going 4-for-27 (14.8%) from 3. MSU shot 21 of 47 (44.7%) from the field and connected on seven 3-pointers.
Belo had team highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds to pace the Bobcats. It was his fourth double-double of the season as he played 33 minutes, his second most this year.
"When he catches and goes straight up, he's a different player," Sprinkle said of Belo's impact. "He's done a really good job the last couple of games of making quicker moves and making some good passes out of double teams. He's been making some great plays."
Belo was joined in double digit scoring by Frey (16), Ricketts (12) and Fernandez (10). Frey had six assists for MSU and Mychael Paulo had three.
Cameron Shelton scored a game-high 21 points while Bernie Andre had 12 for Northern Arizona. Shelton and Brooks DeBisshop corralled 10 rebounds apiece.
Montana State returns to Bozeman for its final two games of the 2019-20 regular season. The Bobcats take on Southern Utah on Thursday, March 5, then host Northern Colorado for Senior Day on Saturday, March 7, in Worthington Arena.