OGDEN, Utah – Montana State recovered from a 13-point deficit in the second half to take a lead, then lose it, with 15 seconds remaining in its Big Sky men’s basketball matchup against Weber State on Thursday.
All the Bobcats needed was a final opportunity to put the finishing touches on their comeback bid, helping MSU beat WSU for the first time since 2013, including their first win at Weber State since the Big Sky Tournament in 2009.
Harald Frey found a cutting Amin Adamu who made a left-handed layup with 3.2 seconds left to propel the Bobcats to a 62-61 victory over the Wildcats in the Dee Events Center. Twelve seconds earlier, Jerrick Harding had converted an old-fashioned 3-point play on the heels of Frey missing two straight free throws to give WSU a 61-60 lead.
The win for Montana State snapped an 11-game losing streak to Weber State that dated back to 2013. The victory for the Bobcats in Ogden was their first on the Wildcats’ home floor since the 2009 Big Sky Conference tournament.
“What a game,” MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle said after becoming the first Bobcat head coach to beat Weber State in his first meeting since Roger Craft did it in 1964. “Talk about competing. My big thing this whole week was there’s a big difference between playing hard and competing. Are we competing to win with the intent to execute? We were competing in the first half.
“Jerrick Harding, thank goodness, cooled off in the second half. I just thought just like the half courter (at UNCG), this is going in.”
The Wildcats took a 43-30 lead with 16:27 remaining in the second half behind an 8-0 run. Montana State called timeout and came out strong out of the break.
MSU went on a 13-2 run over a 5 minute, 47-second span to cut the Weber State advantage to 45-43. Jubrile Belo scored six of MSU’s 13 points during the stretch.
The foes traded baskets until Frey hit a 3-pointer to put MSU up 55-53 with 3:54 remaining, giving the Bobcats their first lead since the first minute of the game.
The Bobcats eventually got out to a 60-55 lead thanks to a defensive effort that held the Wildcats to just 31 percent from the field in the second half. The Wildcats’ Michal Kozak connected on a 3-pointer with 24.5 seconds to go.
MSU was fouled on its next possession, but Frey’s two ensuing free throws misfired. Weber State’s Harding went coast-to-coast and finished at the rim with an and-one layup. He eventually knocked down his free throw to put the Wildcats up 61-60 with 15 seconds left on the clock.
Frey bounced back on MSU’s final possession. He drove into the lane and found Adamu on a back cut who completed the MSU rally with a layup off the glass. Harding’s heave from half court at the buzzer bounced off the backboard no good and MSU’s rally in the second half was complete.
“I think a lot of it is we’ve been in that predicament a lot this season,” said Sprinkle as MSU improved to 5-2 in one-possession games. “We’re comfortable in those stressful situations. We’ve been practicing a lot of those situations. We’ll never be unprepared in the last minute of a game again.
“Our guys did a great job of executing. Amin just made a great cut and typical Harald made a great pass.”
Harding made his first four shots of the game and had Weber State’s first 10 points. He scored 19 in the first half and finished with 31 on 12-for-23 shooting on the night, but was held to 4 of 12 from the field in the second half. He also had four rebounds and three assists.
Kham Davis nearly recorded a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. MSU held Weber State to just 24.1 percent from beyond the arc, while the Wildcats also connected on 6 of 12 free throw attempts. Weber State was held to 26 points during the final 20 minutes of play.
“It won the game for us,” Sprinkle said of MSU’s defense switching into a 1-3-1 zone during the second half. “I felt like it took Weber (State) out of rhythm. Their pace on film, they move the ball so fast, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to guard man-to-man for a long period of time.
“It showed. We went to 1-3-1 and we were flying all over the place. They had good looks, but they were out of rhythm. We rebounded really well out of it. Jubrile (Belo) was a monster in the second half.”
Belo recorded his second double-double of his career by scoring 17 points, nine coming from the charity stripe, and hauling in 12 rebounds. Twelve of his points came in the second half, while Frey scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the second half. Adamu added 10 points to go along with 8 rebounds.
MSU only shot 33.3 percent from the field, but held the edge in rebounding (42-37) and free throws (17-6).
The Bobcats improved to 10-9 overall and 4-4 in Big Sky action. The Wildcats fell to 6-13 overall and 2-6 in league play.
Sprinkle became the first Montana State head coach to win his first game coaching in Ogden in program history. He also became the first MSU coach to pick up a win in his team’s first matchup against Weber State since Craft accomplished the feat in 1964. That matchup was the first ever between the two institutions in men’s basketball.
Montana State travels to Pocatello next to take on Idaho State. The Bobcats and Bengals tipoff in Reed Gym at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25.