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Montana State picks up tenth conference win over Northern Colorado

Montana State Men's Basketball
Posted at 9:32 PM, Feb 04, 2023

(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)

BOZEMAN — Picking up its 10th win in Big Sky Conference play, the Montana State men’s basketball team cruised to a 75-62 win over Northern Colorado on Saturday night.

Four Bobcats (17-8, 10-2 Big Sky Conference) finished in double-figures and eight of the 13 players to log minutes against the Bears (7-16, 2-9 Big Sky Conference) found the scoring column in the win. Jubrile Belo had his second-straight 19-point game, which he earned in just 25 minutes of play, plus RaeQuan Battle and Tyler Patterson added 15 points apiece in the win.

But MSU’s point guard tandem of Darius Brown II and Robert Ford III was critical to MSU’s success against the Bears. While Ford III had 12 points and five rebounds off the bench, Brown II had a dozen assists and six rebounds to go along with just two points. The duo combined for one turnover of the team’s eight — a far cry from Northern Colorado’s 12 turnovers.

“Robert was tremendous in the first half,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle told Bobcat Sports Radio Network. “Robert and Tyler’s threes were huge — they helped us get the monkey off our back a little bit. But that’s what we’re capable of doing.”

“They controlled the game,” Sprinkle added about both point guards. “Darius couldn't care less if he scored just two points. That’s the best part about him.”

As a team, MSU shot 51% from the field to UNC’s 43.8% — most of which was bolstered by a 54.0% shooting effort in the second half. The Bobcats also took advantage inside by out-rebounding the Bears 33-26.

MSU bolted out to an early 9-0 lead with a jumper from Jubrile Belo, two baskets underneath from RaeQuan Battle and a three from Tyler Patterson. Playing uncharacteristically deliberate basketball, Northern Colorado worked the shot clock on their first four possessions and came up empty until Daylen Kountz’s put-back got them on the board at the 15:58 mark.

The Bobcats threw a knockout blow early. An 18-0 run in a four-minute and three-second stretch put UNC in the rearview mirror for good. In that run, MSU hit four straight three-pointers thanks to Ford III, Battle and Patterson, reversing the three-point shooting drought the team has experienced as of late.

“I thought our effort and energy were great today,” Sprinkle said. “We sent a message to them during our walkthrough on Friday and they responded. The guys came out against a team that’s so much better than their record — when you have three seniors who can score like Northern Colorado can, that’s a team you don’t want to see in a tournament setting.”

As if the barrage of threes wasn’t enough, Osobor worked his way into the lane for a layup, which forced a UNC timeout as the Bobcat crowd reached a fever pitch. Then a Patterson steal led to a kick-out to Brown II, who heaved it ahead to a wide-open Belo for a double-clutch dunk.

With a 19-point lead on its final possession, Montana State pushed the lead to 21 points as Robert Ford III called his own number and made a layup to make it a 48-27 game in favor of the Bobcats. One free throw from UNC made it a 48-28 game in favor of MSU at halftime.

In the second half, Patterson’s fifth three gave MSU its largest lead of the night at 56-33 with 18:18 to go, yet the Bears would pull within 11 on a 14-2 run. But in the blink of an eye, MSU used two transition plays sparked by Brown II to quell UNC’s comeback hopes.

First, Brown II picked off a bad pass and coasted in for an easy layup, then he stripped Langston Reynolds underneath the rim and pitched it forward for an uncontested slam from Osobor. After four-straight UNC free throws slowed down the game, Battle curled around a screen for a midrange jumper, then Caleb Fuller found a cutting Battle for a dunk that got the crowd back in the game.

From that point forward, the Bobcats led by as many as 21 points as Osobor split two UNC defenders for a difficult layup at the 8:19 mark. With most of the MSU reserves in the game and the outcome all but wrapped up, the majority of the second half was essentially a wrap as the Bobcats closed out a 75-62 win that was closer than the score indicated.

Daylen Kountz and Matt Johnson II led Northern Colorado with 15 points apiece. The Bobcats limited Big Sky leading scorer Dalton Knecht to a mere nine points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Following this game, the Bobcats will take their final two-game road trip of the regular season at Weber State and Idaho State next Thursday and Saturday, respectively.