They faltered. They could have folded.
But they didn't.
Montana State found itself trailing by 15 points early in the second half, staring at a 1-for-11 shooting start to the second half and a 58-43 deficit against Portland State Thursday night. Then MSU senior point guard Rod Singleton's layup with 11 minutes, 20 seconds stopped a skid and ignited a 27-7 game-ending run to boost MSU to a 70-65 win and a season sweep of the Vikings. The Bobcats (11-8, 6-2) stand alone in third place in the Big Sky Conference standings.
After PSU (10-10, 4-4) took the 15-point advantage, MSU forced 11 misses in a row by the Vikings to pull within 58-52. Later, the Bobcats sandwiched a Tre Johnson block with 3-pointers by Shawn Reid and Xavier Blount to cut the lead to 61-60.
It stayed a one-point game until Reid sank a trey with 29 seconds left on the clock for a 67-65 lead. The Vikings' committed two turnovers in the final 16 seconds and MSU sank three foul shots to close out the victory.
The Vikings, down 41-39 at halftime, shot 8-of-13 to start the second half in taking their 58-43 lead. During the final 11:15, PSU missed 14 of 16 shots and committed six turnovers. In the game-turning 1:28, where MSU closed out the game on a 7-0 run, Tyler Geving's team went 0-for-2 with three giveaways.
"(The last 11 minutes of the second half) was about the exact opposite of the first nine minutes," Montana State head coach Brad Huse said. "We did a much better job of worrying about getting stops than struggling to score. The best part was our guys didn't panic and showed a lot of poise and composure and bared down on the defensive end."
The Bobcats went 8-of-17 from the field to close the game, hitting four treys to finish 7-of-16 from beyond the arc. Singleton hit a 3-pointer during a 9-0 spurt to pull within 58-52, Blount sank one for a 61-60 deficit and Reid put in two, the last which gave MSU the lead for good.
Singleton scored seven of his 13 points during the first comeback run while Blount and Reid each chipped in 15 points to pace MSU.
Early on, MSU used an 8-3 push to take the lead at 19-15, then went 5-of-7 to change a 25-all tie to a 35-30 edge, and held that margin until Lateef McMullen's buzzer-beating shot from half-court pulled the Vikings within 41-39.
The Bobcats committed four turnovers to start the second half, but didn't give away the ball in the final 11:39 to finish with nine miscues.
"It was pretty obvious to me we were struggling to score and it was frustrating," Huse said of falling behind by 15. "A while back, that would have been the end of us. But this team is developing some real toughness.
"It's another road win for us, which is huge. Whenever you get road wins, that adds up for the team."
Montana State plays at Eastern Washington on Saturday night. The Eagles fell 74-60 to Montana Thursday evening.