On a night Montana State’s seniors struggled to score, young players stepped up.
True freshman Tyler Hall poured in 25 points for the second time in the last three games and sophomore Zach Green added 15, as the Bobcats topped Utah Valley 76-72 in Orem on Tuesday. The win raised the MSU’s record to 4-3 on the young season, and gave the program its first non-league road win under second-year coach Brian Fish.
While Fish lauded his young players for rising to the occasion when needed, he found plenty to like in the play of seniors Danny Robison and Marcus Colbert.
“Danny didn’t score like he’d want to tonight, but he grabs 11 rebounds,” Fish said. “I thought it was big that Marcus gritted his teeth in the last 10 minutes. He fought it and found a way to be a main reason that we won by hitting late free throws, and getting five assists with only two turnovers against a switching defense is not easy to do.”
Hall, who seven games into his career, has two of the top five freshman scoring games by a Bobcat in the last quarter-century, posted his first career double-double. He snagged 10 rebounds. It was Green’s work early, though, that kept the Cats close. He scored 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first half. Junior guard Quinton Everett scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half.
The game careened back and forth throughout the night, with neither team leading by more than six points (MSU led by six with three minutes to play). The game was tied for nearly one-quarter of its 40 minutes.
While the Bobcats registered a decent road shooting effort, shooting 46 percent on the night and better than 44 percent in each half, the long-distance touch never showed up. MSU finished just 3-for-16 from the three-point line, with forward Sarp Gobeloglu nailing two of the treys. The team’s free throw shooting also abandoned them, as MSU hit just 11 of 21 charity stripe.
But the Cats compensated on the defensive end. Montana State held Utah Valley to under 40 percent shooting in each half, including 31 percent after halftime, for a 35.5 percent defensive effort on the night.
“Three-point shooting is a key for our team,” Fish said, “so to find a way to win when we don’t shoot the three-pointers is big. It’s another bridge we had to cross.”
MSU’s ability to hang in defensively through the first half and then execute a defensive tactic, Fish said, played a big role in the second half.
“I wanted to save switching one through four for the second half,” he said. “The guys were able to do that, and that was a great job by them.”
Fish credited the Wolverine for causing the Cats problems.
“I didn’t think we played our best game, and that’s a credit to Utah Valley,” Fish said. “They did some things (to trouble MSU). But I have to tip my hat to our guys as well, because they fought and fought.”
Utah Valley falls to 2-5 on the season. Montana State carries its 4-3 record back to Bozeman for a 1 pm Sunday contest against the University of Nebraska at Omaha.