With at least four NBA scouts in attendance to watch Tyler Hall, Sacramento State kept the Montana State superstar sophomore in check. But the Bobcats still managed to snap their struggles on the road, a streak that lasted nearly a year.
The last time Montana State won a game outside of Bozeman came on February 6 of 2016 in Sacramento. On Thursday in front of 751 at the Hornets Nest, Harald Frey led the Bobcats to their first road win of the season to snap an 11-game losing streak away from home.
Frey hit five of his seven 3-point attempts and scored a game-high 22 points, Hall added 17 points with scouts from the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies in attendance and the Bobcats broke through for a 74-65 win on Thursday night.
“Now that is all in the past,” Frey said following Montana State’s second straight Big Sky Conference victory.
The Bobcats started the season 5-2 but lost nine of 10 during a free fall influenced injury, suspension and an overall lack of continuity on offense or defense. Montana State moved to 3-4 in league play, 8-12 overall with the win. Sac State has now lost all three of its league games at home and sit at 2-4 in the Big Sky, 5-12 overall.
“They are so well coached, a veteran team,” MSU third-year head coach Brian Fish said. “I thought our guys had some fight and we played harder in the second half. They ended up taking more 3s than we thought they would. We thought they would stay around 10 attempts but they shot a lot more than that (21). It’s one game. We play them again in a couple of weeks. We will see what happens there.”
The road win marks the first for about half of MSU’s roster, the first in nearly a calendar year and just the seventh of Fish’s tenure.
“That’s about as long as we’ve found (toughness) as far as for 40 minutes,” Fish said. “We had some things we made some mistakes on but we kept getting back to the tough side. I thought Harry did a really good job of fighting it as a point guard and when you do that, you give yourself a chance.”
Frey continued his standout rookie season by drilling three of his first four shots from beyond the arc and helping MSU jump out to a 24-14 lead and a 35-24 advantage at halftime. Frey equaled his 11 first-half points in the second half, including hitting 3-of-4 free throws.
His career-high point total surpassed the 20 he scored against Idaho State in MSU’s first Big Sky win more than two weeks ago in Bozeman. The native of Oslo, Norway is shooting 53 percent from the field in Big Sky play and 59 percent from beyond the arc against Big Sky opponents. He is averaging 15.3 points per game in conference play and he has turned the ball over just three times in the last four games.
“As a point guard, that’s my job,” said Frey after MSU committed just 11 turnovers. “I have to try to lead the offense and the less I turn it over, the better we are going to be. That definitely comes from experience, being out there with my guys on the court. It’s definitely been a point of emphasis.”
The Bobcats were able to hold the Hornets to 42 percent shooting despite Sac State’s size advantage. The hosts grabbed nine of their 15 offensive rebounds in the first half and built a 38-33 advantage on the glass overall as senior Nick Hornsby and junior Justin Strings each grabbed eight rebounds. But Montana State was able to rebound by committee after halftime as junior Zach Green and sophomore Sam Neumann led the charge with six rebounds each.
Montana State double teamed the 6-foot-7 pair of Hornsby and Strings along with senior 6-11 center Eric Stuteville for most of the night. Strings and junior point guard Marcus Graves each scored 19 points but it took 33 shots to get 38 points.
Strings finished 6-of-15 from the floor, including just 2-of-8 from inside the arc. Graves finished 8-of-18 from the floor, including 1-of-3 from deep. The southpaw entered the game having made just two of 26 3-point attempts this season. The Bobcats scouted and installed defense all week catered to packing the paint and forcing the Hornets to shoot. Sac hit 8-of-21 from deep on Thursday.
“We were packed in so tight, they had some had some good open looks and it forced them to shoot some of those open shots,” Fish said. “Our guys had some great quickness in there getting the ball and it caused them some problems. In the first half, it was 50/50 whether they were getting it or we were getting it. I thought we changed that around in the second half.”
Hall finished the game 6-of-12 from the floor and made half of his four 3-point attempts.
Montana State will look for the road sweep at Portland State on Saturday. The Vikings beat Montana 88-77 despite a career-high 29 points by sophomore Griz point guard Ahmaad Rorie.
“I know we will regroup,” Frey said. “Right now, we are going to Chile’s and we will enjoy this (laughs). We will regroup tomorrow.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.