If this is the way Montana State performs the rest of the season, Bobcats men’s basketball fans might want to stock up on Pepto-Bismol.
Portland State scored six points in the final 6 seconds — all on Lateef McMullan 3-pointers — but Montana State held on for a 62-59 victory over the Vikings on Thursday in a game it led from start to finish.
McMullan’s first trey from just beyond the arc went through with 5.9 ticks left, and he snagged an errant MSU inbounds pass about 8 feet from the arc, took two dribbles and lofted another triple from the left wing. It went through with 3 seconds to play for a 61-59 deficit. PSU fouled sophomore guard Michael Dison, and he split a pair from the line.
With 2.2 seconds and the length of the court to go, the ball found its way to Gary Winston, Jr. — Portland State’s best 3-point shooter (11-for-22, 2-for-2 Big Sky) prior to the contest’s tip. Winston Jr.’s shot was off the mark, and after the buzzer, giving the youthful Bobcats the win.
Portland State (3-7, 1-2) ended the game on a 21-10 run after MSU went ahead 52-38 on a Calen Coleman steal and dunk. The Vikings used a 15-1 surge to knot the game at 53. After MSU retaliated with an 8-0 run, McMullan got open enough twice to sink the triples.
Montana State head coach Brad Huse gave a simple reply for his team’s near collapse: When was the Division I game the Bobcats held a late lead? The answer: Nov. 18, 2012.
MSU held a 14-point lead over the University of Portland in a game it won 84-63. The Bobcats moved to 2-0 against the Rose City with Thursday’s outcome.
“Obviously we need to finish the last five minutes better, but this is not a team that’s had a lead with five minutes to go that often,” Huse said. “That’s something to learn from. To still get out with a win feels great.”
With the suspension of junior guard Antonio Biglow ongoing and word that Jamie Stewart was no longer a member of the program shortly before game time, MSU focused on getting frontcourt production for the second game in a row. Junior college transfers Flavien Davis (16 points) and Paul Egwuonwu (14) both netted Bobcats career-bests from the field. Both did most of their damage in the first 33 minutes; Egwuonwu also hit two late jumpers to give the Bobcats a 57-53 lead that was extended to 61-53 through Christian Moon free throws.
The pair shot a combined 13-for-24 from the field while adding a collective 12 rebounds and four assists to the box score.
“The shots that we take are a little more high percentage, closer to the basket,” Egwuonwu said. “Me and Flav, we’ve tried to feed off one another, get each other going.”
Added Davis: “Any player in the country would be happy with more touches, but it’s not really us. It’s the team. Marcus (Colbert) and Mike (Dison), Moon, are doing good jobs of getting us the ball and setting us up.”
Moon added 15 points as MSU shot 69 percent (9-of-13) in the first 12 minutes of the game and 54 percent (6-for-11) in the first nine minutes of the second half to build leads of 23-12 (first half) and 49-33 (second half).
The Bobcats ended the night 22-for-48 from the field (45.8 percent) and had 13 assists on 22 baskets.
“Over half our baskets tonight were shared plays, assists. I’ll take that,” Huse said.
“Lately, it’s more about the team,” Egwuonwu added. “We’re getting there. I think today was a turning point.”
Gidal Kaiser can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2670. Reach him on Twitter @gidalkaiser.