BOISE, Idaho -- Party like it's 1996.
The Montana State men beat Northern Colorado 87-66 on Saturday to win their first Big Sky Conference tournament championship in 26 years. The Bobcats advanced to the NCAA tournament with the win.
Xavier Bishop scored 19 points and Amin Adamu poured in 16 points while Tyler Patterson scored 14 points and Nick Gazelas added 15 off of the bench. Jubrile Belo added eight points as well while Abdul Mohamed grabbed 11 boards and Bishop finished with eight assists.
After coming up just short last year, the Bobcats left no doubt on Saturday as they dominated Northern Colorado from start to finish.
"It's so surreal man you live and dream of these," Mohamed said. "As a kid being from Canada I used to watch YouTube videos of guys that went to March Madness and the "One Shining Moment" and all of that stuff so I was just taking it all in and I still can't believe it right now."
"What's crazy, and I always remind them, we were sitting at Jubrile and Amin's apartment, sitting in the living room just talking and we were talking about coming back," added Bishop, who was named the tournament MVP. "And we all decided if one come back we all going to come back and we talked about what we wanted to do and we wanted to come back and win a Big Sky championship. We knew the ability to do that. The coaches recruited a great class and brought a lot of talent in that really came in and helped us.
"We all compliment each other well but yeah we were sitting in the living room and we were talking about this in June and July and for it to happen man, it's crazy. These are my brothers. It's crazy."
Montana State started hot and led 40-28 after shooting 50% from the field in the opening half. The Bobcats held the Bears to under 30% shooting to start. In the second half things didn't change as MSU distanced itself from UNC to blow out the Bears for the win. The Bobcats finished shooting 51.9% from the field and went 10 for 18 from deep as Patterson knocked down four triples and Gazelas, Adamu and Bishop all had a pair.
"Right now my head is all over the place and this is just a surreal moment and the fact that we were able to do that, talk about it beforehand and letting each other know that we have a change to do it this year and we accomplished it," said Adamu, who was named to the all-tournament team. "What more could you ask for. We're champs."
The Bobcats fell just short in the Big Sky championship game a year ago to Eastern Washington. Adamu, Mohamed and Bishop all then utilized their extra years due to the COVID-19 pandemic to come back this season, and it all paid off.
"We were on this stage last year and we didn't complete the goal but man, Selection Sunday, like Abdul said it's stuff you dream of as a kid and it's like we're living our dream and we're blessed," Bishop said, adding with a laugh, "It was tough too. We got a lot of old jokes from coach Sprink too. That didn't help."
"It's not even a feeling I can describe," Belo added. "Been waiting for moments like this my whole life and to finally do it with my brothers, we've actually made it man. We've done everything we said we were going to do after that last championship game and so much stress has been lifted off me."
MSU improves to 27-7 and will learn on Sunday who they will play in the NCAA tournament.
"I had a vision when I got the job and I'm relentless with our players with that vision," MSU coach Danny Sprinkle said. "I make sure they know that. Anything less than that vision is not acceptable. From showing up on time to the weight room, showing up on time to class. The little things, they add up. The discipline that's what wins big games like this. It's not all just basketball it's doing the right thing. When they get on the court and they step in between those lines, they compete. They've continued to just shock me with how competitive they are and no matter what they're hitting at that time they find a way to get through that."