Montana State

‘Cats rally to force OT but fall at Pacific


In a haphazard final minute of regulation, Xavier Bishop earned a chance to redeem himself. And for a moment, it appeared he might be the Bobcats’ hero for the second time in a week.

Montana State’s lightning-quick point guard drew a foul with 6.7 seconds left while attempting a 3-point shot and his team trailing by three points, 63-60. He stepped to the line at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, California and missed the first free throw. Then he missed the second.

The former University of Missouri-Kansas City transfer made the third, which at the time seemed like a potentially foolish choice, cutting Pacific’s lead to two but giving the Tigers the ball back.

MSU’s Abdul Mohamed fouled Pacific’s Daniss Jenkins in 0.2 seconds. Jenkins returned the favor, missing the first of two free throws.

With 0.5 seconds left, Bishop sprinted the exact same spot in front of the Montana State bench at the extended corner of the 3-point line. He again pump faked his defender into the air, drew a foul and headed to the free throw line for three more freebies. This time, he cashed in all of them, tying the game at 64.

Broc Finstuen bobbled the inbounds pass, MSU got one more look but a lob to Amin Adamu at the regulation buzzer was no good. Despite contact, this time the Bobcats didn’t get the call.

Although Montana State shaved a six-point deficit to none in the final 60 seconds of regulation, the Bobcats ran out of juice in overtime, falling 74-70.


Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle in 2020/by Brooks Nuanez

In OT, the Bobcats made just two field goals, both from beyond the arc. After Bishop forced the first OT game for the Bobcats since the 2017-18 season, Finstuen corralled his sixth offensive rebound of the game on a missed MSU shot and connected on two free throws to give Pacific the edge. A layup by Justin Moore and another layup by Finstuen put the contest out of reach.

The loss drops MSU to 1-1 a week into the season. The Bobcats turned heads around the Big Sky Conference by posting a 91-78 win at UNLV a week ago, the only Division I win by a BSC squad entering Wednesday.

Pacific, a team that won 23 games a season ago and is coached by former NBA All-Star Damon Stoudamire, moved to 2-1 with the win.

“I commend our guys for fighting back,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “(Pacific) is a good, physical team. They grinded it out. Our guys in the first half, we weren’t very tough. The second half, we came back and fought. We’ve got to do a better job of establishing ourselves in the paint.”

Pacific held the lead for nearly 30 minutes despite shooting 34.3 percent from the floor. The Bobcats shot 43.5 percent but lost the rebounding battle (40-28) while the Tigers had 27 second-chance points to MSU’s five. Pacific also went 22-for-30 from the charity stripe while Montana State made half of its 14 free throws.

“I thought the story of the game was the minus-12 on the boards, 27 second-chance points and 14 points off turnovers,” Sprinkles said. “But that’s what (Pacific) does. It was basically like a conference game to prepare for us. A couple of our new guys, they found out how physical Division I basketball is. Sometimes you’ve just got to go through it.”

A week out from earning Big Sky Player of the Week honors thanks to his 22-point outburst at UNLV, Bishop struggled with that physicality. The 5-foot-8 dynamo went 4-of-16 from the floor, including 1-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line. He managed 15 points.

Amin Adamu led a trio of Bobcats in double figures with 17 points. Sophomore Borja Fernandez scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. Junior center Jubrile Belo had a team-high eight rebounds.

Montana State is currently scheduled to play two more non-conference games ahead of the start of its Big Sky schedule on Dec. 31. The Bobcats are slated to travel to Washington State to face the Cougars on Dec. 18.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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