BOZEMAN — If there’s anything COVID-19 has taught the sports world it’s adaptability -- the ability to adapt to team quarantines, socially distanced practices, lack of scrimmages, or maybe even having to hold a team shootaround without coaches just hours before a season opener.
If that sounds too specific, that’s because it happened to Montana State.
“We had a pending test on our staff," said MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle. "They ended up coming back and saying it’s negative, but we didn’t find out until about 1:30 on game day. I met with a couple of the veteran guys and said this is what we’re doing in shootaround. They ran it.”
One of those veteran players was Jubrile Belo.
“They understood that we had a big opportunity here to win, and they knew because the coaches aren’t here they’ve got to lock in even more," said Belo, a junior forward who had 14 points and eight rebounds in the Bobcats' 91-78 win over UNLV. "We were all locked in. I felt like that was one of the biggest reasons we won that game, was because we stuck together.”
The Bobcats had no issues locking in once the game tipped off against UNLV, shooting 55 percent from both the field and 3-point line with Xavier Bishop leading the way with 22 points.
"I thought our guys, the way they shared the ball and the way they played for each other, that’s what was most impressive for me, and how hard they played," added Sprinkle. "We didn’t have a ton of time to do a lot of scouting stuff. We just had to stick to the basic stuff we had been working on since the summer when we were able to practice.”
While last week’s performance turned the heads of many basketball programs, Sprinkle has already turned his focus on areas the Bobcats need to improve before their next game.
"It was obviously a great first step," he said. "Now we have to continue that step and continue to share the ball. We can’t start forcing things. We still have to keep that ball movement and let the ball find the open shot.”
The Bobcats tip off their second game of the season at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the University of the Pacific.
“It will be a totally different game," added Sprinkle. "They’re big. They’re physical. It’s going to be a grind-out game. They’re going to be able to watch that UNLV game, which is why I know we need to clean up a lot of our ball screen defense, our execution stuff, because they’re not going to let us cut wherever we want. I know we’re going to have to defend and rebound to give ourselves a chance there.”