Big Sky Conference

Defense paces Bobcats past Vandals for first win in Moscow since 2006

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MOSCOW, Idaho – Montana State coach Brian Fish preached toughness and physicality in the days leading to Montana State’s 77-67 win at Idaho on Thursday. His team responded.

The Bobcats out-rebounded Idaho 38-31, out-scored the Vandals in the paint 32-20, and scored 14 second-chance points while holding UI to none. MSU senior Tyler Hall scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half to lead Montana State (7-8 overall, 4-1 Big Sky). Junior point guard Harald Frey added 19.

Hall and Frey combined to hit just six of their 20 attempts from beyond the 3-point line and MSU missed all nine of its first half tries from deep. But the Bobcats limited the Vandals to 42.4 percent shooting and secured a collection of stops due to rebounding.

“It’s been a while since we’ve won a game with defense,” Fish said after his squad held the Vandals to 31 percent shooting in a 21-point first half. “Idaho runs as much stuff (offensively) as anyone in the league, and to guard it all is hard. I thought the key was that we won methodically and by playing hard. I thought that was a key.”

Montana State led from start to finish. The Vandals drew within three points on two occasions in the middle of the second half. But Hall, the league’s all-time leader in career 3-point makes, answered each time with a 3-pointer. He now has 357 triples in his career.

“Tyler started making some shots late, and Harry (Frey) was able to close it out from the free throw line,” Fish said. Frey made all seven of his free throws, including four in the final minute.

MSU sophomore center Devin Kirby scored eight points for the Cats, and shared the rebounding lead with Hall, each player snagging seven. Frey dished out seven assists to just one turnover. The Cats shot 45.6 percent from the floor, 30 percent from the arc. MSU turned the ball over only seven times.

The Bobcats led 30-21 at halftime, and the first half’s defining characteristic was a five-and-a-half minute dry spell imposed by the Bobcat defense. It ended when RayQuawndis Mitchell, a 26 percent 3-point shooter entering the contest, drilled back-to-back triples to cut the Bobcat lead to 16-12, the first at the 8:40 mark. Montana State led 18-16 with 5:37 to play in the first half when a Frey 3-pointer began a 12-4 run to close the first half.

UI’s Trevon Allen led all first-half scorers with 11 points, one more than his teammates combined.

The Bobcats beat Idaho (4-12, 1-4) in Moscow for the first time since 2006. The Cats host league-leading Northern Colorado on Monday at 7 p.m. in Worthington Arena.

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