(Editor's Note: Montana State press release)
The Montana State men's basketball team overcame a sluggish first half offensively and outscored Portland by 10 points in the final eight minutes of the game to come away with a 61-59 victory on Sunday, December 19, in Worthington Arena.
The Bobcats nailed a game-winning jump shot in the final seconds, but it was almost for not as MSU trailed 26-16 at halftime. MSU was 5 of 34 (14.7%) from the field and had eight turnovers.
"I wanted to go in there and go berserk, but I didn't," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said of his meeting with his squad in the locker room at the half. "I just said that it was the worst half of basketball we've played. We had defended our butt off. That's the only reason we were down 10, we should have been down 30.
"It was still manageable. It was (Portland's) fourth game this week and our first. We needed to come out for our fans and play with unbelievable energy starting literally from the first second. We made a big run in the first (couple) minutes and got back in the game.
Montana State got the margin within four by the 17:18 mark of the second half and eventually tied the score at 34 on a Kellen Tynes layup with 13:52 remaining. However, the Pilots would use a 7-0 run a few minutes later to go up 47-39 with 8:08 to go.
The Bobcats trickled away at the Pilots' advantage and eventually tied the contest again, 56-56, with 1:09 to play. Portland drew a foul on its ensuing possession and Moses Wood made one of two free throws, with his miss being the lone one by the Pilots out of 16 on the day.
MSU's next time up the floor resulted in a 3-pointer from the wing by Tyler Patterson which fell through the net to give the Bobcats their first lead of the game, 59-57, with 23 seconds left. Portland earned another opportunity on the free throw line on its following possession and this time Wood made both free throw attempts.
The Bobcats called a timeout with 10 seconds remaining and got a play lined up to run through Amin Adamu The Bobcat senior received a pass from Abdul Mohamed and backed into Portland's Tyler Robertson. Adamu pulled up for a turnaround jumper towards his left hand and he elevated and connected on the shot as the ball sank through with only eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
Portland's final half-court shot at the buzzer by Kristian Sjolund was unsuccessful.
"The guys executed when it mattered," Sprinkle said. "Tyler read Jubrile (Belo's) screen for him, flared it and hit a huge shot. It put the pressure on them.
"At the end of the game, we wanted to get Amin on the block. I wanted him to attack and get to the free throw line, but he ended up making a tremendous play."
The Bobcats led for just over 10 seconds in the contest as a 45.8% second half shooting clip brought MSU back into the matchup. The Bobcats also had just two turnovers in the second half as the 'Cats finished the day with a season-low 27.6% shooting mark against the Pilots. MSU improved to 8-4 on the season in the victory.
Patterson led MSU with 14 points while he was followed by Xavier Bishop (13), Belo (11) and Adamu (10) in double digits. Mohamed and Belo each had a team-high seven rebounds while Bishop had five assists.
Chris Austin paced Portland with 19 points while Robertson scored 16 points on 5 of 16 shooting. Austin also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Portland, which shot 36.4% from the field, dropped to 8-6 overall.
The Bobcats return to action on Wednesday when they host SAGU American Indian College. The game will be streamed on ESPN+, while fans can also tune into the Bobcat Radio Network locally or on msubobcats.com/watch and on the Varsity Network app.