On a night replete with strong individual performances, Montana State coach Brad Huse was eager to talk about his entire squad after his Bobcats earned a 78-70 win at North Dakota on Thursday.
“We played great team basketball tonight,” Huse said of the victory that countered North Dakota’s 72-69 triumph in Bozeman last month.
“The guys were really determined to win this game.”
No one was more determined than senior forward Flavien Davis, who led the Bobcats with 19 points while grabbing five rebounds. Guard Marcus Colbert scored 16, while center Paul Egwuonwu added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Keyed by a pair of Stephan Holm 3-pointers and two big plays by Eric Norman, the Bobcats used a 15-3 run midway through the first half to seize control.
Norman converted a three-point play at 11:28 to give the ’Cats a 15-12 lead, and then Holm drained a 3-pointer after a Troy Huff turnover for an 18-12 advantage.
A jumper and a pair of free throws by Antonio Biglow two minutes later pushed the Bobcats’ lead to 10, and when Egwuonwu converted a layup on a dish from Biglow at 6:04, Montana State held a 27-15 lead.
The ’Cats carried a 36-25 lead into halftime.
MSU held its double-digit lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half, but a 3-pointer by Quinton Hooker, followed by an Aaron Anderson triple, cut MSU’s lead to 55-50 with 8:31 to play. A Stefan Cole layup at 8:01 stretched the UND run to 8-0 before four free throws and a layup by Flavien Davis pushed the Bobcats’ lead back to nine.
Solid ball-handling and key baskets by Biglow and Colbert, along with nearly-flawless free-throw shooting, allowed MSU to hold on.
“They made a big run at us, which we knew they would because of their veterans, but we were able to hold them off,” Huse said.
The Bobcats hit 11 of 12 free throws in the game’s final minute. In the final 7:19, MSU went 4 of 6 from the field and 12 of 15 from the line.
The Bobcats shot more than 52 percent, the second-best mark against a Division I opponent this season.
Montana State is now 7-6 in Big Sky play, the same as Montana and North Dakota. Saturday’s opponent, Northern Colorado, is 8-5 after a home overtime win against the Grizzlies on Thursday, along with NAU, who defeated Portland State.
MSU and the Bears tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday.