Jeremy Senglin came off a screen and buried his third 3-pointer in the game’s first five minutes. After the fade away found nothing but the bottom of the net, the Weber State senior guard held his follow through a little longer than usual as he ran back to the other end of the floor at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
The sharpest shooting guard in the Big Sky Conference knew he was red-hot in Bozeman on Thursday night.
The first-team All-Big Sky selection drilled seven consecutive 3-point shots during a 21-point first half, sparking the Wildcats to 11 made 3-pointers during a 51-point stanza against reeling Montana State. The Bobcats adjusted slightly in the second half but the efficient offensive execution by the defending Big Sky champions never wavered as Weber State cruised to an 87-75 victory in front of 2,586.
“Today, after the third one, I knew I was feeling it,” said Senglin, who’s 27 points moved him past David Johnson (1976-80) and Todd Harper (1978-82) into ninth place on Weber’s all-time scoring list with 1,386 career points. “My teammates again were getting me good looks, setting me great screens and the coaches were helping with running those plays we were going to.”
Weber State hit 11-of-19 3-pointers before halftime and half of its 12 shots from deep in the second half. Senglin finished 8-of-10 from beyond the arc, one triple away from tying Weber State’s single-game record.
During a torrid first half, MSU freshman point guard Harald Frey and sophomore Tyler Hall helped Montana State answer despite Weber’s blazing shooting. The Wildcats hit nine of their first 13 3-point attempts but MSU kept the deficit in single digits for the first 17 minutes.
Senglin’s fourth 3-pointer with 7:41 left in the first half pushed the Weber lead to 31-26 and tied the WSU senior with former deadeye Scott Bamforth for the school record in career 3-point makes. Senglin’s fifth 3-pointer with five minutes left before halftime capped a 7-0 run that turned a two-point game into a WSU 38-29 advantage. The curl off a screen into a flawlessly released fade away etched his name in the record books, his 259th 3-pointer in his career with at least 18 games remaining in his senior season.
By the end of the night, Senglin was up to 262 career 3-pointers, four more than Bamforth hit between 2010 and 2013. Senglin is now alone in fifth in league history, passing Eastern Washington southpaw sharpshooter Tyler Harvey. He trails Northern Arizona’s Ross Lamb (308), NAU’s Steve Sir (295) and Montana State’s Danny Sprinkle (263) on the all-time Big Sky list.”
“I’ve hit seven in a row in high school,” the Arlington, Texas product said. “But never seven in a row in college.
“(Montana State) shrinks the floor. My teammates were doing a good job penetrating and kicking. Without them doing that, I wouldn’t have gotten all those clean looks.”
While Senglin was unconscious, the rest of the Wildcats shot the lights out as well. Junior Dusty Baker drilled four 3-pointers, including three in the second half to extend leads to double digits each time MSU cut it under 10. He finished 14 of Weber’s 23 bench points. Sophomore Cody John boosted Senglin for scoring 16 points in a variety of ways, including drilling two of his three 3-point tries and burying all four of his free throws.
“I thought we played pretty good offense tonight and we have not been a great offensive team,” Weber State 11th-year head coach Randy Rahe said. “Tonight, I thought we had good ball movement. I thought we got open looks and you have to make those open looks. Senglin got us off to a great start. Him making some shots early gave the rest of the team confidence to step up and make shots.”
Weber State’s crisp offensive execution led to open look after open look. A Bobcat team that has found ways to score consistently during their current seven-game losing streak continued to struggle finding any form of semblance of competitiveness on the other end.
“No one collectively as a team has said we are going to get a stop,” MSU third-year head coach Brian Fish said. “Until everybody is on a string where we get stops defensively, it’s not going to work. We get a stop there late in the first half (Senglin’s only miss from beyond the arc) and we give up the offensive rebound for the putback (by Baker at the buzzer). We’ve gotta get stops.
Montana State is now 5-9 overall after a 5-2 start. The Bobcats have lost four straight on their home court after winning five in a row at the Brick to begin the season.
“It’s definitely tough,” Frey said. “Nobody likes to lose and you can definitely feel that. We just have to keep working. I feel like we are really close to being a really good team. We just have to break that code.”
Junior Zach Green hit his only 3-pointer five minutes into the second half to answer a Baker triple and cut the Wildcat lead to 62-55. But junior Ryan Richardson’s second 3-pointer pushed it to 10 and Senglin’s only make from deep of the second half extended it to 70-57.
During the final 10 minutes, Montana State finally adjusted to find shooters, forcing sophomore McKay Cannon into three misses in four 3-point shots. By the time MSU stopped giving up open 3-point looks, center Zach Braxton reentered the game. The 6-foot-10 sophomore scored six of his eight points during a three minute spurt to push Weber’s lead to 80-64 with 6:28 to play.
Braxton took advantage of the five inches he holds over MSU sophomore Sam Neumann, his primary defender. Senior Kyndahl Hill’s pump fake of Neumann into a dunk with 5:02 left was Weber State’s last field goal.
“It started to matter to them but that’s been our Achilles heel: we get behind before we want to guard,” Fish said.
Montana State senior Quinton Everett returned from a one-game absence do to a knee injury to give the Bobcats 14 points, four rebounds and inspired defense. His 3-pointer with 2:53 left cut the lead to 82-75. Green had a good look on a 3-point try with 1:19 left that could’ve cut it to four but he air balled the shot.
The hosts recorded five consecutive stops following Hill’s slam but by that time, it was too late. Two free throws each by Baker and John in the final minute sealed Weber’s 1-0 start in Big Sky play.
“Every game, no matter who the team is, no matter where it is is a big game,” said Senglin, last season’s Big Sky Tournament MVP. “It’s a big win and it feels good to steal one on the road.”
Montana State shot 46.7 percent in a 41-point first half, including hitting 5-of-11 from deep. Hall scored 15 of his team-high 23 before halftime but missed eight of his 11 second-half field goal attempts. He hit just 2-of-9 3-point tries.
Frey had his best shooting night to date. The lefty from Oslo, Norway hit 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and scored 18 points, the second-best output of his career, in a team-high 33 minutes. Green scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. Neumann scored just two points but pulled down eight rebounds as MSU owned a 38-28 advantage on the boards.
“You can’t give up 17 3-pointers and the same amount of points in the paint as you score (MSU had 22, WSU had 20),” said Fish, who’s team is letting opponents shoot 39.8 percent from beyond the arc against them this season. “It’s all on the defensive end. We are not guarding. Everyone is coming in and setting records on us shooting and they are all hitting 3s. Until this is a team thing where we are saying I’m getting stops, It’s not going to happen.
“Anybody that has ever played basketball knows that when you play defense, it’s about maxing out your effort and trying. That’s exactly what it’s going to take. It’s got to be to the point it hurts so bad we have to get stops.”
The Bobcats’ attention now turns to Idaho State, a 2-11 outfit who lost 74-62 to Montana in Missoula on Thursday night.
“I’ve told everybody that is around me, close to me that this season was going to be a grind because we lack veterans and we lack some leadership,” Fish said. “Until we get those…nobody is buying into what I’m saying about leading and stopping and going. It’s got to be the most important thing to them and I’m not getting that from the team yet. Until I can convince them they have to huddle up and say, ‘This is it, this is the stop, we are getting a stop.’ I’m not getting that. I have really good guys but we have to get really nasty when the ball goes in the air.”
The Wildcats carry momentum into Saturday’s matinee showdown with the Griz at Dahlberg Arena with four straight wins, including a 77-71 win at Utah State in their non-conference finale. The rematch of last year’s Big Sky Tournament championship game comes with the added incentive of gaining a game up in the standings one weekend into Big Sky play.
“We really enjoy playing each other,” said Rahe, who has played Montana in the Big Sky Tournament championship game four times since 2010. “It’s a rivalry. I think everybody gets a little excited about it. They are very good. They always are and they are very good this year. We have had a hard time up there. We haven’t beat them up there in quite a long time (2009). It’s not going to be an easy task but we are going to embrace the opportunity.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.