Bobcats ride strong defense to win over UNC - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Bobcats ride strong defense to win over UNC

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It didn’t matter to Brian Fish that Montana State’s effort on the offensive end of the floor Thursday wasn’t a thing of beauty.

“I thought it was our prettiest defensive game,” he said.

The result was an 81-63 win over Northern Colorado in Worthington Arena in the penultimate game of the regular season which drew the Cats within one game of .500 in Big Sky play. And the tone was set defensively before tipoff.

“Coach (Fish) told us in the huddle before that game that he doesn’t know if we’re going to make shots or miss shots,” said Bobcat senior Marcus Colbert, “but one thing that has to be pretty much great is our defense. If you’re not scoring you’ve got to get stops.”

That tenet came into play early Thursday. With the Bobcats riding a quick start to a 15-7 lead, MSU slipped into a five-and-a-half minute scoring drought. The Bears moved into its last lead of the game, 17-15, on a three-pointer by Jon’te Dotson at the 10:13 mark of the first half. But Colbert answered with a triple on the next possession and the Cats would never trail again.

“We were getting stops, so (the dry spell) wasn’t hurting us,” said freshman guard Tyler Hall.

Leading 24-22 with 6:23 left in the half, MSU’s 11-2 spurt gave the Bobcats control of the game. And in the last 71 seconds of the first half the Cats scored seven points to UNC’s two, including an acrobatic layup by Colbert as time expired to push the halftime lead to 42-28. The lead remained double-digits for the rest of the night.

The Bobcats used a weapon on Thursday that had remained safely tucked away for much of the conference season. MSU shot 24 free throws, hitting 22, while UNC finished 10-for-16 from the line. That marked the first game in the last 11 the Cats shot more free throws than the foe.

“That was an important part of the game,” Fish said. “I thought we were aggressive. Tyler did a good job penetrating, and that’s important for him to counter what defenses are doing to him. I just thought it was a better effort tonight in terms of playing aggressive as a team.”

Hall’s 21-point effort gives him four straight games over 20, and 13 this season. He’s scored 553 points this year, the most ever by a Bobcat freshman and ninth-most in a season in school history. On Thursday he moved past Alonzo Stephens, Les Curry, Quadre Lollis and Carlos Taylor on the single-season list.

Colbert continued to move up, as well. His 24 points gives him 1,327 in his career, pushing him past Kral Ferch and Ray Willis, Jr., into 15th in school history in scoring. His four triples eases him past Danny Piepoli into fifth in three-pointers.

But for all the offensive milestones, defense was still the main point of pride following the win. Fish lauded the play of junior forward Quinton Everett. “He can eliminate a guy (from the opposing offense),” he said, “and sometimes he’ll go and get a rebound that is just a man rebound. When he is playing well, he does something every game that just makes you go, ‘Wow.’”

The win raises Montana State’s season record to 13-16, and the Cats are now 8-9 in Big Sky play. Northern Colorado is 9-20, 6-11. The Bobcats host the program’s Senior Day on Saturday, as MSU thanks and celebrates forward Danny Robison of Billings and Colbert. Tipoff is 2 pm, and the ceremonies follow the contest.

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