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Jan 6, 2013 12:45 AM by Q2 Sports

Cats use late rally, last-second stand to top Eastern

BOZEMAN - Montana State waited out Eastern Washington's torrid shooting and survived a late barrage to capture a 70-68 overtime win in Bozeman Saturday.

The Bobcats led for just three minutes in regulation and trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half, but a pair of Flavien Davis free throws at the end of the second half sent the game to an extra period and a block by the junior forward in the tumultuous last seconds of overtime boosted the Bobcats to the victory.

"Flavien came up big," said Bobcat coach Brad Huse. "He came out of nowhere to block that one. That was an impressive play. That's just a guy making a play."

That the Bobcats would provide an opportunity for last-second heroics seemed improbable for most of the night, rendered such by a red-hot Eagle team. Eastern Washington shot 54% in the first half and had still hit 52% of its shots 37 minutes into the game. But the Eagles hit only three of their 12 field goal attempts thereafter to allow the Bobcats to seize control at the end.

"They're a good-shooting team," Huse said. "They shot well tonight. I just told the guys, ‘You guys are a team.' That's the only explanation I have the comeback tonight is how they competed."

Davis finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting and a 6-for-9 night at the line. He also grabbed five boards, with two assists and steals to complement the blocked shot. Xavier Blount added 14 points for MSU, while Christian Moon's 12 and Calen Coleman's 11 rounded out the Bobcats' double-digit scorers.

Eastern benefited from hot starts at the beginning of each half, and threatened to break the game open the same way in the overtime period by jumping out to a 66-64 lead on a Jeffrey Forbes jumper. The Eagles had another possession to pad the lead, but after a Bobcat stop Calen Coleman's three -point and a pair of free throws by Christian Moon gave MSU a 69-66 lead. A Thomas Reuter layup pulled the Eagles within one with 15 seconds to play, and Michael Dison made one of two free throws to set up the final sequence.

While Dison's numbers don't jump off the box score page, the reserve point guard's play was crucial to MSU's win. He played the final 25 minutes of the game, and after the Bobcats switched from zone to man-to-man defensively he helped slow Eastern's three-point shooting guard duo of Forbes and Kevin Winford, who combined to shoot 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.

In spite of Eastern's hot shooting, Huse lauded his team's defense late. "It's probably the first time I can say it this year, but it's the first time our defense held together those last eight, nine minutes, 10 minutes. You don't normally win many games shooting the percentages we shot, but it's a credit to guys getting more aggressive there. It changed up their comfort zone, they were piercing shots left and right, and at some point our guys had to commit to playing differently on defense."

Montana State played the aggressor's role from tip to buzzer offensively, resulting in 34 free throws (MSU made 24). Eastern Washington hit six of its eight charity tosses.

"We did stay aggressive all night," he said. "I think the defense had a lot to do with that."

The defense that Eastern converted so many shots against throughout the night saved MSU on the game's final sequence. Eagles guard Daniel Hill penetrated, and his shot was blocked by Davis, who recovered the ball. But with time ticking off the clock Davis attempted heave into the forecourt was intercepted by Collin Chiverton. His three point attempt rimmed off.

Montana State raised its record to 5-7 on the season, 2-2 in Big Sky play, while the Eagles fall to 3-11 overall, 1-3 in the conference. Montana State visits Northern Colorado Thursday at 7:05 pm.

"It was impressive how (Davis) helped over, because (EWU) had a clear lane to the basket. I don't know where (Davis) came from, but kind of true to form for the night (Eastern) ended up with the ball again."

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