The Worthington Arena crowd cheered after a child sang the national anthem.

The 2,697 fans in attendance applauded when preseason all-conference guard Harald Frey was announced in the starting lineup.

But neither of those moments compared to the roar when Danny Sprinkle, the former all-conference guard, was introduced before his first home game as Montana State’s head coach.

From the start, the Bobcats exhibited Sprinkle’s desired style. MSU scored the first 11 points and smothered Rocky Mountain in a 93-60 win Saturday.

“We definitely want to be a team that plays great defense, rebound the ball and then get out and run,” Frey said. “That’s definitely what we want to build our identity around.”

The Bobcats (1-1) rotated quick defensively, forced 26 turnovers and scored 33 points off those. Though MSU’s halfcourt offense struggled briefly, the Bobcats scored often enough in transition to separate and for Sprinkle to win his first game as head coach.

Frey scored 12 points and assisted eight baskets while fellow guard Mychael Paulo added 16 points and seven assists as the duo spearheaded the offense. MSU shot 52% from the field and held NAIA Rocky Mountain to 39%.

“Tried to play to our standard. It doesn’t matter who we play. It’s about us,” Sprinkle said. “It’s about us competing defensively, getting stops and executing and sharing the ball. I thought for 30 of the 40 minutes, we did that tonight.”

To start the game, Paulo hit a transition layup off a pass from Frey, who unloaded the ball before crossing halfcourt. Amin Adamu scored another transition layup off another defensive board. After an offensive rebound by Finn Fleute, Paulo hit a 3-pointer.

MSU Hoops v. Rocky Mtn.

Montana State junior Amin Adamu goes to the net for a dunk on Saturday at Worthington Arena.

Moments later, Frey drove, kicked the ball to the corner to Zach Hobbs, who swung it to Paulo on the wing, where he hit his second 3. The next play after that, Fleute stole the ball, passed to Frey on the wing, and Frey passed to Paulo atop the arc, where he hit his third.

MSU led 17-4 just five minutes in, and Rocky Mountain called timeout. The game was never close again.

“We did a really good job of getting stops and pushing the tempo. ... It all stems from getting stops,” Sprinkle said. “When our defense is good, and we’re on point and we can get out and run, it really helps our offense.”

Down the stretch of the first half, the Bobcats’ offense slowed. The Battlin’ Bears mixed in a zone defense. MSU settled for 3-pointers and missed shots. RMC trimmed the deficit from 20 points to nine.

Throughout early-season practices, Sprinkle has told players they need to perform at a high level every possession they’re on the court. Anything less, he said, is unacceptable.

“I think we got stagnant,” Sprinkle said. “We were immature, like we are. We’re young. It’s a good learning lesson for our guys.”

But MSU took its 13-point lead into halftime and responded early in the second frame. The Bobcats then went on an 18-2 run and buried the Battlin’ Bears for good.

Ladan Ricketts hit three 3s off the bench in the first five minutes. Frey added another. Jubrile Belo, Devin Kirby and Adamu each added baskets in the paint. Six of the seven makes came off turnovers or defensive rebounds.

“Every time we rebound, the emphasis is to run the court,” Belo said. “The wings got to sprint to the corners and bigs got to rim run. That will give us a lot of scoring options.”

Those rim runs are what Sprinkle called “easy money.” At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Belo has the size to bully his way down low, especially against a team without anyone as tall.

Belo noticed Rocky Mountain’s defenders being aggressive with him, so that meant he could take advantage by beating them down the floor following defensive rebounds.

Then, a guard often had to help to defend him, a favorable mismatch Belo maximized, and he tied Paulo with a team-high 16 points. MSU scored 42 points in the paint and 26 on fast breaks.

MSU Hoops v. Rocky Mtn.

Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle talks to his assistant coaches on Saturday at Worthington Arena.

This past week, Sprinkle showed his team what it could have done better in the last five minutes of Tuesday’s eight-point loss at No. 17 Utah State. That was a lesson too.

As the young season unfolds, Saturday was another example to learn how MSU wants to play. The win was the Bobcats’ first of the season, though it didn’t come against a Division I opponent. They’ll face four of those in five days beginning Friday.

“Got to go back, watch some film, make some adjustments,” Frey said. “It’s early November. There’s definitely adjustments to be made.”

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