MSU SPORTS INFORMATION
Brad Huse had a feeling his Montana State men's basketball team had the Northern Colorado Bears right where it wanted them.
"This team just believes that if it gets to the last five minutes with a chance that it will find a way to get it done," MSU's seventh-year head coach said following his team's come-from-behind road win on Thursday. Trailing by eight points with seven minutes left, the Bobcats closed the game with a 15-4 run to earn a 69-66 win in Greeley, MSU's fourth straight win and its third straight by three points or less.
Montana State overcame spectacular individual efforts by NC's Tate Unruh (23 points) and Derric Barden (14 points, 11 rebounds) with solid defense throughout and hot shooting the second half. MSU held the Bears to 38 percent shooting on the night, including below 40 percent in each half. Unruh and Barden were the only Bears to crack double-digits in scoring.
After shooting 42 percent before the intermission, the Cats caught fire in the second half. MSU hit 13 of its 23 field goal attempts in the second half, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. MSU also hit 12 of its 17 charity tosses in the second half, including six of its last eight.
The teams traded leads through the early going Thursday, with Calen Coleman's trey at the 8:16 mark of the first half giving the Bobcats a 24-19 lead. Emmanuel Addo's free throw and Barden's tip-in spurred a 13-0 Northern Colorado run, and it took a 3-0 Bobcat run at the end of the half to trim the home team's halftime lead to 32-27.
The Bears pushed their lead to nine on an Unruh three-pointer 1:50 into the half, and still led by eight at the seven-minute mark. But Paul Egwuonwu's jumper trimmed the lead to six, and after Xavier Blount split a pair of free throws Coleman hit another three-pointer to get MSU within 62-60.
Trailing 64-60 with 2:40 to play, Flavien Davis converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play, and after NC grabbed a 66-64 lead with 1:48 to play on a Barden dunk Blount's layup tied the game. Coleman's rebound on the ensuing possession gave MSU an opportunity for the lead, and Michael Dison's two free throws put the Bobcats up 68-66. An Egwuonwu free throw at 16 seconds built the Bobcat lead to three, and MSU successfully defended Unruh's three-point attempt to hold on for the victory.
The third straight Big Sky win was sealed only after a third straight buzzer-beating attempt by MSU's opponent was unsuccessful.
Coleman led the Bobcats with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-7 from the circle. Blount's 14 points included 7-for-9 from the free throw line, while Egwuonwu added a dozen and Christian Moon 10.
The Bobcats raised their record to 6-7 overall, 3-2 in the league, with the victory. Northern Colorado fell to 3-10 overall, 1-4 in the Big Sky.