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Montana State extends win streak to six with narrow victory over Eastern Washington

— Montana State used a strong defensive effort and timely plays late in a 69-65 Big Sky Conference men’s basketball victory over Eastern Washington on Thursday, Jan. 27, in Worthington Arena. The Bobcats’ victory snapped a six-game losing streak against the Eagles and was only MSU’s third in the last 18 meetings with EWU.

During the first half, both sides went on significant scoring runs. After a free throw by MSU’s Jubrile Belo, Eastern Washington scored 10 straight points to take a 10-1 lead. The Bobcats responded with a 19-point run of their own over 6 minutes, 23 seconds to take a 20-10 lead. The Eags clawed their way back into single digits, and the teams went into halftime with a one-point lead, with MSU leading 26-25 after 20 minutes.

The Eags shot only 29% from the field in the first half, but hit seven 3-pointers to stay in the game. In addition, MSU turned the ball over 11 times compared to EWU’s 5.

“I challenged the guys at halftime because I wasn’t pleased with our first-half effort,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle explained. “I hold our leaders accountable for our defensive breakdowns and how sloppy we were with the basketball. They made the necessary changes.”

Steele Venters’ layup gave the Eagles a 43-41 lead with 11:15 remaining. On the other end, Belo hit two free throws, and MSU’s Xavier Bishop hit a 3-pointer after an offensive foul call on EWU. The Bobcats would not go behind again.

Montana State led by as many as six points in the final minutes of the second half and held off an Eastern Washington comeback bid to win.

MSU’s sixth consecutive win raised the Bobcats’ overall record to 15-5 and 7-2 in Big Sky play. The Eagles’ record fell to 11-9. (5-4 BSC).

Sprinkle said, “I think we got stops when we needed them.” “We hammered the paint with the drive and got to the free throw line, which helped us despite missing a couple down the stretch. We were aggressive; even when we missed shots, we simply kept going.”

Montana State outshot Eastern Washington 38.5-32.7 percent throughout the night. The Eags’ field goal % was their lowest in a Big Sky game this season, despite EWU came in averaging 78 points.

EWU was also outrebounded by the Bobcats, 53-30. MSU’s 53 boards were the highest for the programme in a Big Sky contest since 2017. Venters, who averages 18 points per game, was restricted to a season-low six points by MSU (2-13 FG).

Sprinkle stated, “I think we did a pretty excellent job of chesting up at the rim and making it difficult for them.” “They made a couple of layups, but I thought we did a good job of forcing them to score. They missed several shots that they don’t typically miss, but I believe a lot of it was due to our physicality and being between them and the basket.”

Bishop (15), Belo (15), RaeQuan Battle (15), and Amin Adamu (15) led the Bobcats in scoring (12). Bishop, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, sank a club-high four 3-pointers to lead the team in scoring for the third time in a row.

“I mean, we’d have three less victories if he hadn’t been that outstanding,” Sprinkle remarked of Bishop’s recent performance. “He was outstanding in the second half. His four three-pointers, and the fact that he nailed them when the game was tied, down one, or up one, were important.”

Belo added 10 rebounds and two blocks to his stat line for his fourth double-double of the season. Battle hit 5 of 10 shots, while Abdul Mohamed led the squad with 12 rebounds and four assists. Adamu played 29 minutes and grabbed six rebounds in his first outing after missing two games. He was also a key defender on EWU’s Rylan Bergersen, who shot 2 of 12 from the field after averaging almost 14 points per game before the contest.

Sprinkle remarked of Adamu, “Amin competed hard.” “He performed an excellent job protecting Bergersen, who is a fantastic player. Rylan is a large boy, so he performed fine chesting up. He was clearly exhausted; he had just returned on Tuesday, so we expected him to be, but he pushed through it.”

Linton Acliese led the Eagles with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Angelo Allegri led all scorers with 17 points and seven rebounds.

Montana State returns to Worthington Arena on Saturday at 4 p.m. to face Idaho. Saturday’s game is MSU/Faculty Staff Appreciation, with MSU staff receiving a complimentary ticket and the option of purchasing an extra ticket for $5.