Big Sky Conference

Spight out-duels Hall as UNC rolls Bobcats

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For a half, it appeared Tyler Hall and Andre Spight might engage in a scoring duel to remember. After halftime, Northern Colorado simply cleared out for Spight and let their talented transfer go to work.

The combo guard who previously started at Arizona State poured in 41 points, including hitting a Northern Colorado Division I-record 15 field goals to help UNC bury Montana State 86-63 in Greeley on Saturday afternoon.

The win moves Northern Colorado to 6-5 in Big Sky Conference play, 15-9 overall. The Bears salvage a split following Thursday’s 88-79 loss to first-place Montana. The loss is the sixth in seven outings for the Bobcats. Montana State is 5-6 in Big Sky play, 12-12 overall.

Hall and Spight each hit four 3-pointers and each scored 18 points as the game went to halftime with Northern Colorado clinging to a 38-34 lead.

“I thought we played really well the first half, we competed,” MSU fourth-year head coach Brian Fish said. “They got the lead. They beat us on the boards in the first half. I thought we were really good the first four or five minutes of the second half but then it looked like fatigue just got to us. They started making some shots that just wore us down and things started sliding back from there.”

Montana State junior Tyler Hall/ by Brooks Nuanez

After halftime, Spight hit his first two 3-point tries to push the lead to 48-39 four minutes in. With the shot clock winding down, Spight fired a wild 3-point try — one of 21 on the day from beyond the arc — from the corner that went off the side of the backboard. Jonah Radebaugh corralled the offensive rebound, one of four offensive boards and 10 rebounds overall.

Spight got the ball on the swing from Chaz Glotta and buried a 3-pointer from the middle of the Bear logo near half-court as the shot clock buzzer sounded. On the very next possession, Spight hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second half and his eighth overall, giving him 30 points and pushing Northern Colorado’s lead to 54-30.

Montana State would not let Spight hit another triple but he did score 11 more points. With a variety of defenders taking their tries, Spight also showed off his passing abilities, throwing one-handed alley-oop passes to Jordan Davis for a pair of thunderous two-handed dunks, the second of which gave UNC a 67-50 lead with nine minutes left.

Spight’s final pull-up jumper pushed the Bears’ lead to 20 points, 81-61, for the first time and his final pair of free throws boosted him into the 40-point club. The 6-foot-2 guard had the 56th game in league history of 41 points or more, including the most in a game since Southern Utah’s Randy Onwuasor scored 43 points in SUU’s triple-overtime win over Montana State in the Big Sky tournament last spring.

The last time a Big Sky player scored more than 40 points in a regular-season league game came when Eastern Washington’s Jake Wiley and Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 45 and 43 points, respectively, in a win over Portland State last spring.

“He played well and he’s a good player so we expect that,” Fish said. “Some of those shots come off of offensive rebounds that are kicked out to him. We have to make sure we don’t give them those attempts.”

Southern Utah guard Randy Onwuasor (0) scored 43 points in a 109-105 Thunderbird victory over Montana State last season/by Brooks Nuanez

Hall made seven of his first nine shots less than 48 hours after finishing 1-of-11 for six points in MSU’s 75-74 loss at North Dakota on Thursday. He hit five of his first six 3-point tries but missed his final three. He hit 10 of his first 14 shot attempts before missing his final tries to finish 10-of-17.

Hall scored 27 points but his last field goal came with 11:39 left in the game to cut the lead to 59-49 after he converted an old-fashioned 3-point play. That free throw as his last point. UNC held a 27-14 advantage from there.

“He was making some shots and was probably frustrated the other night when he wasn’t making them,” Fish said. “He came out focused and was able to knock some shots down. I thought the ball movement was good in the first half. We had a lot of guys going. Fatigue really set in and we got sideways.”

Spight finished 6-of-20 from the floor and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in Northern Colorado’s 76-64 loss at Montana State earlier this season. The Bobcats owned a 44-28 advantage on the glass in the win.

On Saturday, the biggest differences were 28 more points from Spight and a 48-31 advantage on the glass. True freshman Jalen Sanders paced the effort on the boards, finishing with a career-high 17. UNC finished with 12 offensive rebounds leading to 18 second-chance points.

“That flipped the game,” Fish said. “That gave them energy and effort and they started getting there. You could tell it was a point of emphasis and it was a big reason we won at our place and a big reason they won here tonight.”

Northern Colorado junior Jordan Davis/ by Brooks Nuanez

Northern Colorado has already played Eastern Washington and Idaho twice and the Montana schools twice. UNC has just one game — next week against Weber State — against a team in the top four of the league over its last seven.

Montana State started 4-0 in league play for the first time in 13 years. MSU has just one win since then, a three-point scrape against 11th-place Southern Utah in Bozeman last weekend. The Bobcats still have games at EWU, Idaho and Montana plus a home matchup with Weber State remaining on its schedule.

“You’ve got to fight,” Fish said. “Life is about fighting. It’s not a button you push. You fight it, you have to grind it, you pin your ears back, it’s a character check. You start getting after it and getting better in practice.”

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved. 

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 12 year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to founded Skyline Sports.

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