(Editor's note: Montana State University media release)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Montana State and Northern Arizona went toe-to-toe Saturday playing in a contest with 13 ties and 12 lead changes, but in the end the Bobcats came away from Rolle Activity Center with a 58-53 victory over the Lumberjacks. The win improved MSU to 9-3 overall and 6-0 in the Big Sky Conference standings.
The game was tied at 50 in the second half following an Xavier Bishop layup, but Northern Arizona's Carson Towt was fouled on the ensuing possession. He hit one of his two free throws to put the Lumberjacks up 51-50 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
Amin Adamu took over on the offensive end for the Bobcats.
Adamu put Montana State ahead 52-51 with 2:13 to go behind a jumper. Northern Arizona had two opportunities to take the lead but were unable to find the basket. After the Bobcats called a timeout, a designed play set up Adamu for another shot which he connected on to extend the MSU lead to 54-51 with 55 seconds remaining.
MSU's senior guard stepped up on the defensive side of the floor, as Adamu took a charge on NAU's Cameron Shelton on the Lumberjacks' next possession. Adamu made a layup on a dish from Bishop with 19 seconds left then hit two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to account for a Bobcat 8-2 run to close out the matchup.
"You have to win games like this in the league," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "It was ugly. It was probably one of the worst games we've played. Our defense was okay and kept us in it, but on offense we just weren't converting.
"Everybody kind of contributed again like the other night. It's good for our guys. It's better to teach off a win. There were a lot of teaching moments in this game. We got to continue to improve going forward."
Adamu led the Bobcats with 21 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Bishop contributed with 10 points and a team-high six assists. Tyler Patterson scored eight points while Abdul Mohamed had a Bobcat-high seven rebounds.
NAU's Shelton scored a game-high 22 points and had four assists. Keith Haymon had seven rebounds for the Lumberjacks.
The Bobcats narrowly held a 46-42% edge from the field, but also held Northern Arizona to a 1-for-7 (14.3%) clip from 3-point range. NAU ended the contest with a 33-30 advantage on the boards and finished with 10 steals.
"I want to commend our guys for guarding the 3-point line like they did," Sprinkle said. "(Northern Arizona) only made one 3-pointer tonight which is hard to do. I'm proud of our guys for that.
"This is what Big Sky basketball is like. I think it's the most underrated league in the country. Our next six games are brutal, but we're going to enjoy this one until midnight tonight."
Montana State's seven-game winning streak is its longest since the 2001-02 season. The Bobcats' 6-0 start to Big Sky play is its best stretch to open a conference schedule in 34 years when the 1986-87 squad began its league slate 9-0. MSU's six consecutive victories in Big Sky play is also its longest stretch in 23 years.
The Bobcats are scheduled to continue their three-game road stand on Thursday when Montana State faces Montana in Missoula at 7 p.m. MSU and Montana then will meet for a second time on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Worthington Arena. Both contests will be broadcast by SWX Montana.