(EDITOR'S NOTE: MSU PRESS RELEASE)
BOZEMAN -- Eastern Washington outscored Montana State by 19 in the opening nine minutes of the second half to pull away from the Bobcats in an 85-69 victory on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Worthington Arena. The Eagles improved to 10-6 overall and 8-2 in Big Sky play, while the Bobcats fell to 9-7 (6-4 BSC).
Montana State jumped out to a 12-5 advantage just five minutes into the contest. The lead would be the Bobcats' largest of the contest.
EWU tied things up at 19 four minutes later on a Kim Aiken Jr. 3-pointer. The Eags took the lead for good at the 5:28 mark of the first half on a 3-pointer by Tanner Groves. MSU's Xavier Bishop made a pair of free throws with 38 seconds remaining in the half to cut the deficit to 36-33 at the halftime break.
"I thought in the first half we did a good job getting good shots," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "I thought our ball movement was way better than Thursday. We just couldn't string together multiple stops. It felt like the dam was building up and it just broke. We just don't have enough firepower to get through those tough stretches."
Eastern Washington opened the second half immediately with an and-one opportunity by Michael Meadows as the Eagle completed the three-point play. Meadows followed with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, then Jacob Groves finished a fast break with a dunk to complete a 8-2 scoring run. The Eagles eventually led by as many as 24 in the second half.
Five Eagles scored in double figures led by Tanner Groves's 16. As a team, EWU shot 51.7% from the field and 48.1% from 3-point range. The Eagles were over 56% in both categories during the second half. They out-rebounded MSU 34-28 as Aiken Jr. finished with 13 boards and Tyler Robertson finished with 10.
The Bobcats were 23-for-50 (46%) from the field but went just 4 of 16 (25%) from deep. Jubrile Belo (11), Mike Hood (10) and Xavier Bishop (10) were MSU's leading scorers. Borja Fernandez had a team-high six rebounds and Bishop dished out three assists.
"I hope we've learned how hard it is to beat those top teams in the league," Sprinkle said. "You have to go above and beyond. We have to have a habit of cracking down every time, being in a stance defensively, boxing your guy out every time, our habits aren't at a championship level yet. That's where we have to get them."
Montana State's next scheduled series features a head-to-head set of contests versus Idaho State. The Bobcats open the matchup against the Bengals at 5 p.m. on Thursday in Bozeman.