A day after missing nine free throws in a loss against UNC Greensboro, Montana State missed seven more on Saturday in a loss to Quinnipiac at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada, at the Northern Classic.
More concerning than the missed free throws, however, was the overall dearth of offensive execution — especially in the second half — in a 70-53 loss.
After only trailing 26-24 at halftime, Montana State was outscored 44-29 in the final 20 minutes.
In a battle of Bobcats, Quinnipiac logged three players with double-digit points: Dezi Jones (16), Matt Balanc (15) and Luis Kortright (13). Montana State’s Jubrile Belo led his team with 14 points, but nobody else reached double figures.
“I thought Jubrile competed today. I’m not sure about everybody else,” MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle said on the radio afterward. “I thought Jed Miller came in and competed. He’s a tough kid. He came in and made some shots. He made two of our three 3s. We’ve still got a ways to go, especially from a toughness standpoint and a defensive standpoint.”
Miller, a true freshman, played six minutes in the second half and shot 2 of 5 on 3-pointers with one rebound, one assist and one steal. His shots from long range were a welcomed sight for MSU, which managed just one other 3-pointer in the game. That came from Tyler Patterson in the first half.
Overall, Montana State shot 3 of 25 on 3-pointers. Coupled with what Sprinkle estimated to be 13 missed layups, he said, “That’s a recipe for getting your butt kicked.”
Sprinkle said the team got “good looks once again,” referring to Friday’s loss against UNCG, but his Bobcats couldn’t capitalize on them.
“I bet you, out of those 22 that we missed, 17 or 18 were open 3s, they were catch-and-shoot 3s,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to shoot, and hopefully they start falling.”
Montana State (3-4) will wrap up its Canadian trip with an 11:30 a.m. game Saturday against Middle Tennessee State.
Quinnipiac (7-0), the first-place team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference a few weeks into the season, led by as many as eight points a few times in the first half. But MSU closed well and went into halftime down by just two.
A 13-2 Quinnipiac run spanning four minutes in the second half turned its four-point lead into a 15-point cushion, and it led by at least eight points the rest of the way.
A pair of RaeQuan Battle free throws, Miller’s second 3-pointer and a Belo layup made up a 7-3 run to get MSU back within nine points with 4 minutes, 4 seconds to play. Nine straight points from Quinnipiac followed to put the game out of reach.
Sprinkle is hoping for a quick turnaround on the defensive end.
“I want to see our guards stay in front of somebody. We’ve been struggling all year. Our guards can’t guard,” he said. “We’ve got to show a lot more toughness and quickness, having some pride in keeping guys in front of us. They exposed our guards tonight. But they’re really good guards. Quinnipiac, I knew they were good. Even watching film, I knew they were good. They were even better in person.”
Behind Belo’s 14 points, Battle and Rob Ford III each tallied eight points. Great Osobor joined Miller in having six points. Caleb Fuller had four points, and Darius Brown II and Patrick McMahon each had two points.
Belo, who played a team-high 29 minutes, led the team with nine rebounds to go with one block and one steal.
“He played his butt off,” Sprinkle said. “He gets beat on every game, and he comes back. We’ve got to get everybody with that same kind of toughness he has.”
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