Tyler Hall was on such a shooting streak, Sacramento State play-by-play announcer Steve McIlroy gushed, “I’m not sure why you would let anyone other than Hall ever shoot the ball.”
For a stretch, no other Bobcat was needed Thursday night in Sacramento. Hall’s seventh 3-pointer on a night he drilled eight from beyond the arc capped a 14-point solo spurt by the Montana State senior. That triple also was part of a shooting spree that helped Hall move into the top 10 in the history of NCAA Division I men’s basketball in 3-point shots made. And it gave his team a 58-55 lead with seven minutes to play.
Hall would score six more points to push his total to a season-high 34 points. But his final 3-pointer with one second to play was inconsequential, cutting in half the final deficit to complete Sac State’s 70-67 win at the Nest on Thursday night.
Perhaps MSU should’ve heeded McIlroy’s advice. Hall missed his next four shots — the Big Sky Conference’s all-time leader in 3s and points finished 10-of-21 from the floor, 8-of-19 from deep — but it was the rest of the Bobcats who failed to pick up the slack. Montana State players outside of Hall missed eight of nine shots in the final seven minutes of the game as MSU fell to 11-8 in league play, 14-15 overall.
The loss overshadowed Hall’s memorable night. He now has made 417 3-pointers, moving him into 9th on the all-time list in the history of the NCAA. He is now three clear of former Davidson star and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
Of Montana State’s eight misses in the final five minutes, five were layups. Harald Frey, the reigning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after scoring 30 and 32 respectively against Southern Utah and Northern Arizona last week, missed three layups on an 11-point night. He was 4-of-12 from the floor. The Bobcats shot 37.1 percent from the field as a team on Thursday. His old-fashioned 3-point play with 4:53 left gave Montana State a 61-58 advantage.
But Osi Nwachukwu hit a jump shot on the next possession to spark 10-0 run over the next four and a half minutes. Hall hit three free throws with 15 seconds left to close the gap to 68-64. But the Bobcats ran out of time and now play a crucial game on Saturday that has turned into a must-win if MSU wants to secure a first-round bye in next week’s Big Sky Tournament.
The win moves the Hornets to 8-11 in league and secures the No. 8 seed in the tournament in Boise.
Chibueze Jacobs scored six of his team-high 19 points during Sac State’s closing spurt. Nwachukwu scored all 12 of his points after halftime. Josh Patton’s tip-in with 2:34 left helped the Hornets retake the lead. He score six points in the final 154 seconds and finished with 10 points to go with 16 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
Montana State limited Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa to 1-of-12 shooting, including 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Hornets were 4-of-22 from deep. Senior Marcus Graves, an All-Big Sky candidate, was 5-of-16 from the floor and 1-of-7 from deep. Jacobs hit both his 3-point tries.
MSU was 1-of-9 from distance outside of hall, including three misses each in as many attempts for Frey and junior sharpshooter Ladan Ricketts.
Northern Colorado posted a 70-57 win at Southern Utah on Thursday to move into a tie for first place with Montana, an 81-69 loser at Portland State. The Griz will win their fifth Big Sky regular-season title in eight years with a win over Sac State on Saturday. The Bears and the Griz have locked up the top two seeds in the conference tournament.
Weber State’s 93-59 win over Idaho secured a first-round bye for the Wildcats. Eastern Washington posted a 91-62 win at Idaho State to stay in a three-way tie for third with Weber and Montana State.
MSU plays at PSU on Saturday needing a victory to secure a bye. A Montana State win would secure fourth place for the Bobcats regardless of the results around the rest of the league. An MSU loss means the Bobcats finish sixth.
PSU will finish fourth if the Vikings beat the Bobcats and Weber State beats Eastern Washington. Portland State will finish fifth if EWU beats Weber and the Vkings beat the Bobcats. PSU will finish sixth if they lose on Saturday.