MSU Mens Hoops v. N. Dakota

Montana State junior Ladan Ricketts looks for a way past North Dakota’s Aanen Moody on Nov. 27 at Worthington Arena.

Prior to Montana State’s matchup at Denver, head coach Brian Fish told his team the Pioneers would likely start with a high level of energy because they were coming off a 34-point loss.

The Bobcats couldn’t match that early on as DU scored 10 straight points to open the contest and 13 of the first 15 points overall. While MSU crept back late, it wasn’t nearly enough in the 76-64 loss Tuesday.

“They set the tone, and we fell into being passive there,” Fish said in audio provided by MSU.

With the loss, the Bobcats closed the nonconference season at 3-7 as the Pioneers snapped their two-game win streak. The Bobcats are in the middle of a 31-day stretch in which they only play two games. The first resulted in MSU’s most impressive outcome of the season, a 95-90 win over Washington State, but the success didn’t carry over. The Bobcats won’t play again until Dec. 29 when they visit Southern Utah to open Big Sky play.

MSU shot 35 percent from the field while DU converted 50 percent of its shots, including 15 of 29 from behind the arc. Four Pioneers scored nine points or more, led by Ronnie Harrell Jr.’s 24.

Harald Frey led the Bobcats with 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field and eight free throws. Tyler Hall added 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. While MSU outscored DU 42-30 in the second half, the deficit it was already buried in was too large to climb out of.

MSU made just one of its first 10 shots from the field to start the contest. Then the Pioneers capped a 13-0 run to increase the margin to 28-7 about seven minutes before halftime. The combination of 10 consecutive points to start and 13 consecutive midway through the frame thoroughly challenged the Bobcats.

Hall’s first points didn’t come until five minutes remained before halftime as he knocked down a 3-pointer. That cut the DU lead to 20.

After the score stood 46-22 at the break, MSU went on a 9-0 run five minutes into the second half. The spurt forced the Pioneers to call for a timeout. And they responded following the stoppage by immediately bumping the lead back up to 20.

Aside from Frey and Hall, no Bobcat scored more than six points.

“I thought the final 20, 25 minutes we did a lot of good things,” Fish said, “but this game was won and separated on they got some shots down, they hit some tough shots, but we’ve got to be able to set a tone. That first 10 minutes, they set it and we didn’t.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.