Its lead shrinking and Montana State fighting to hold off a stubborn Southern Utah team Saturday afternoon in Worthington Arena, there was no doubt who would be called on to finish the job.
And Marcus Colbert delivered.
MSU's senior co-captain nailed a three-pointer and two free throws, and assisted on a pair of thunderous Zach Green dunks in the game's final 100 seconds, leading the Bobcats to an 80-73 win over SUU. "That's Marcus," MSU coach Brian Fish said succinctly.
Playing through an obvious leg injury that he laughed off as "old man pain," Colbert finished with 11 points, three boards, and a season-high nine assists. He was neutralized much of the game's first 35 minutes. Several of his teammates carried the load during that time. Freshman Tyler Hall followed Thursday's 29-point showing with 14 points, three assists and three steals, while junior forward Sarp Gobeloglu scored 13. Green and Quinton Everett added a dozen points each.
Fish praised Colbert's persistence and toughness. "It's a boxing match out there," he said. "They're trying to get a foul on him to get him on the bench. They know it, we know it, when he's on the bench we're not as good. The last time we played them he was on the bench most of the first half and that hurt us. I feel like the ring man over there, putting Vaseline on the cuts to try to keep him going and he just stays in the boxing match. I'm telling you, he's a fun kid to coach."
The Bobcats started strong Saturday, jumping to a 19-6 lead six-and-a-half minutes in against a Southern Utah squad missing two of its top three scorers. Everett fueled that strong start, out-scoring SUU 7-6 in the game's first 6:20. After the opening spurt MSU never led by less than 10 for the remainder of the half, which ended 40-26.
Montana State led 66-54 with 3:23 remaining in the game when the Thunderbirds made their move. A pair of free throws by Marshall and a triple by James McGee drew them within 66-59. A Tyler Hall three at 2:42 pushed MSU's lead back to nine, but McGee hit a three and an and-one free throw, and Marshall's jumper made it a one possession game.
"We got a little sidetracked," Fish said, "thought it was going to be easy, but when you watch Southern Utah play you can't tell the score through how they play on film. They play hard the entire game, I knew they would, and they're well-coached. I knew they'd play the whole game, and to get the win, I couldn't be happier."
All Southern Utah's too-little, too-late run accomplished was to set up Colbert's heroics. He dished on the first of Green's hammer dunks, then after two Marshall free throws he rattled in a trey with 1:01 to play. After a Race Parsons three-pointer for Southern Utah, Colbert again found Green streaking down the lane for another dunk. Colbert finished the game with a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds.
At the game's end, Fish said he was pleased with the lesson this contest will teach his team. "To win a game like this," he said, "this will be the best thing that could have happened to us."
The win was significant in several ways for the Bobcats. It gives the team its first three-game conference win streak since it started the 2013-14 Big Sky season 3-0, and pushes the team over .500 in league play with a 7-6 record. MSU is 12-13 overall, while Southern Utah now stands 4-19 overall, 2-11 in the Big Sky.
Montana State visits Montana next Saturday for a 7 pm contest.
Montana State Sports Information
Trailing by one-point just fifty-two seconds into the second quarter, the Montana State women’s basketball team flexed its muscle with a 12-0 run and never looked back, en route to an 87-66 win over Southern Utah, Saturday night in Centrum Arena.
“Southern Utah was crashing all over and we had no answer for them on the glass,” said MSU Head Coach Tricia Binford. “Give Southern Utah credit, they played hard and hit shots. It was a tough first half.”
Montana State (19-5, 12-1) held a one-point advantage after the opening period, but Southern Utah (2-21, 0-12) started the second stanza with a three-pointer and a bucket by Taylor Baird gave the Thunderbirds a 25-24 lead at the 9:08 mark.
MSU’s 12-0 run was sparked by an unlikely source as Margreet Barhoum converted a layup, followed by five straight points by Riley Nordgaard. The Bobcats built its largest lead of the opening half at 41-29 on a Nordgaard triple. SUU responded with a three-pointer via Jamie Smith to close the gap to 41-32 at intermission.
Southern Utah opened the second half cutting the margin to six-points at the 7:11 mark, but once again MSU put its foot down and reeled off 13 consecutive points. Five different players scored during the run, which saw MSU connect on four 3-pointers.
“The strength of the team is that we have kids that can step up at any given time,” Binford said. “As coaches, we got out of their way and just let them play the game in the second half. It was great team basketball.”
Montana State took its largest lead of the contest at 77-48 with 7:35 remaining on a Nordgaard field-goal. With the lead secured, the Bobcats were able to go deep into its bench.
Freshman Haley Blodgett was a defensive stalwart for the Bobcats recording a school record seven blocks to go along with a career-high eight rebounds.
“Haley is a great help on the defensive end, and because of her size, we don’t have to throw a double-team,” Binford said. “Offensively, she’s getting more comfortable. It was important for us to give our bench quality minutes, while at the same time resting bodies.”
Nordgaard, a product of Canby, Minnesota, finished with a game-high 17 points, while Jasmine Hommes and Peyton Ferris also hit double-digits with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Southern Utah was led by Baird with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Montana State will travel to Montana on Saturday for the second Brawl of the Wild meeting this winter.
NOTES: Montana State posts its 19th win, which matches (2011-12) Tricia Binfords’ best total at MSU…MSU’s 12 Big Sky wins is the most in a single-season during the Tricia Binford era…MSU’s Haley Blodgett recorded seven blocks, which ties the MSU mark with Sarah Balian (2010)… Haley Blodgett recorded a career-high eight rebounds…All 11 players suited-up saw playing time, the least seeing seven minutes.
Montana State Sports Information