(Editor's note: Montana State athletics press release)
MOSCOW, Idaho— Montana State took the lead five minutes into the contest and controlled things from there as the Bobcat men's basketball team beat Idaho, 92-72, in a Thursday Big Sky Conference match-up at ICCU Arena.
The Bobcats made their debut in the newly-built facility in Moscow against the Vandals who were coming off a nearly three-week lay off due to COVID-19 protocols. Due to inclement weather in the area, the game was played without public spectators.
Montana State and Idaho traded baskets in the early going as the two sides sat tied at 13 after an Ethan Kilgore layup for the Vandals at the 14 minute, 59 second mark of the first half.
A Jubrile Belo layup, Tyler Patterson 3-pointer, Great Osobor field goal in the paint, a RaeQuan Battle putback and two Kellen Tynes free throws made up an 11-0 run for the Bobcats to put the game out of reach. Idaho wouldn't get the margin closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Montana State outshot Idaho in both halves and eventually held an edge of 55.7-45.1% from the field. The Bobcats went 7 of 15 (46.7%) from 3-point range and held Idaho to a 7-for-20 (35%) clip.
The Bobcats played two solid halves by outscoring the Vandals by nine in the first half and 11 in the second half. MSU forced 21 turnovers while giving the ball up just 10 times in the matchup.
"I thought we scored pretty consistently the entire game," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "You have to do that against Idaho. We didn't have a lot of scoring runs but we got them in the paint a little bit tonight. Our guys drove the ball really well especially Xavier in the 2nd half. It puts pressure on the defense, credit to our guys for exploiting it."
Xavier Bishop scored a season-high 22 points with his final field goal of the night giving the Bobcats a 24-point lead, their largest in the game. He led a group of five double-digit scorers in Jubrile Belo (15), Amin Adamu (14), Abdul Mohamed (10) and Tyler Patterson (10). Great Osobor had eight points for MSU and Battle followed with seven.
"I thought Amin's points when they happened were critical," Sprinkle said. "He made some big plays that eased the load. We got stops that ended a few runs and Jubrile was great all night. He did a really good job offensively and defensively."
Idaho's Mikey Dixon scored a game-high 24 points between the two sides. Thirteen of his points came from the free throw line and he was held to nine points in the final 20 minutes. The rest of the Vandals squad went to the charity stripe just eight times while two others finished in double digits scoring.
"He's such a great free throw shooter," Sprinkle said of Dixon. "He's so quick and fast, he's hard to stay in front of. You have to try and guard him 1-on-1 which is nearly impossible. I think we did a pretty good job in the second half, we made it harder at the rim overall."
Montana State improved to 11-5 overall with the win and 3-2 in Big Sky Conference play. Idaho dropped to 3-9 (0-2) in the defeat.
The Bobcats are set to return home next to face Montana this Sunday at 5 p.m. in Worthington Arena. The Grizzlies head into the matchup with an 11-5 overall mark as well, but sit 4-1 in league action.
"It's a really important game and it's going to be a heck of a challenge," Sprinkle said of playing Montana Sunday. "They are always one of the top teams in the league. We have to start winning more of those games against the top teams in our conference and they're one of them.
"They're tremendously coached. They don't beat themselves, you have to beat them. We're going to have to be aggressive when 5 p.m. comes around on Sunday."
Sunday's game versus Montana is designated as a "White Out" as Bobcat Athletics asks Bobcat fans to wear white to Worthington Arena. The game will be broadcast by SWX Montana as well as on ESPN+.