PORTLAND, Oregon — (Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
The Montana State men's basketball team was fueled by a 13-0 run in the second half and closed out a 73-61 victory over Portland State on Saturday, Jan. 22, in Viking Pavilion. The Bobcats improved to 14-5 overall, and 6-2 in Big Sky Conference play, behind their fifth straight road win which is the longest winning streak for the program during its Big Sky era.
The Vikings jumped out with the early edge in a first half that was played on fairly even terms. MSU had six turnovers in the opening six minutes of the contest and fell down 11-5. A RaeQuan Battle [msubobcats.com] 3-pointer capped an 8-2 Bobcat scoring run to put the 'Cats ahead 13-12 and the two teams traded baskets from there. MSU led by as many as five in the opening half, but it was tied at 32 before Nick Gazelas [msubobcats.com] hit a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds on the clock to put the Bobcats ahead 35-32 at halftime.
The second half opened with a Tyler Patterson [msubobcats.com] 3-pointer for Montana State which was followed by a Damion Squire field goal for the Vikings.
A resulting 13-0 run by Montana State essentially put the game away.
Gazelas drained a 3-pointer, Jubrile Belo [msubobcats.com] scored eight straight points and Great Osobor [msubobcats.com] made a layup over the course of a span that took over 4:30 off the clock and put MSU ahead 51-34. The closest the Viks got the margin down to was 12 with just a minute left in the contest.
"We did a really good job of finishing and doing what we needed to do," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle [msubobcats.com] said. "We missed some free throws at the end, but we did a better job of handling their pressure in the second half.
"But that's what they do," Sprinkle said of Portland State's defense. "It took our guys 12-13 minutes to adjust to the pressure and the physicality of the style they play. But once we adjusted, we played really well."
Four Bobcats scored in double digits led by Xavier Bishop's [msubobcats.com] 15 points. The Bobcat senior point guard also led the team with seven assists while adding six rebounds. Abdul Mohamed [msubobcats.com] had 12 points and tied for a team-high seven rebounds with Jubrile Belo [msubobcats.com]. Battle and Gazelas scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench with Battle going 5-for-7 from the floor.
"He has been more comfortable lately and I'm proud of him because he had some great passes tonight," Sprinkle said of Battle. "He got us a lot of open shots. His energy, especially early, when he came into the game changed things."
Portland State came into the game leading the league with 12.5 offensive rebounds per outing. The Bobcats out-rebounded the Vikings 43-26 which included a 14-6 edge on the offensive glass.
"We flipped the script on them," Sprinkle said. "They're one of the best teams in the country in offensive rebounding. I think our guys did a good job of getting the long rebounds. Give our guys credit, everybody got in the mix."
Montana State turned the ball over 16 times, the most by the Bobcats against a Big Sky opponent this season. But MSU forced 13 Portland State turnovers to cut into the margin. Montana State also out-shot Portland State (46.3-35.3%) from the field and limited the Viks to a 5-for-18 (27.8%) clip from 3-point range.
Portland State dropped to 4-11 overall and 2-5 in conference action. MSU's victory was its fifth straight while the Bobcats have won 10 of their last 11 games.
"We've got to continue to get better," Sprinkle said. "I told the team that 'I'm going to coach you for 40 minutes. If we're up or down 20, we've got to do stuff the right way.' We're going to run into some good teams. We need to be great in 51 days on (Big Sky) Championship Saturday."
Montana State returns home for its next two matchups. The Bobcats are first set to host Eastern Washington at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27, in Worthington Arena.