MOSCOW, Idaho – Montana State had its all-time scoring leader on the floor, which was more than a young Idaho team could say.
It made all the difference in a crucial 2 minutes in the second half of a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game the Bobcats (7-8, 4-1) pulled away to win 77-67 on Thursday night.
Tyler Hall, MSU’s all-time scoring leader, and Vandals freshman RayQuandis Mitchell dueled from long range – with each connecting on a pair of 3-pointers – as Idaho closed to 51-48 with just less than 9 minutes to play. Then Hall dropped in two more from beyond the arc to widen MSU’s advantage to nine points, and the Bobcats were not threatened again.
“We just couldn’t get a big stop there down the stretch,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said.
In the opening period, the Vandals (4-12, 1-4) limited Hall and fellow guard Harald Frey to six and five points, respectively. But each got hot after the break, with Hall leading with 20 and Frey adding 19.
“We did a good job on Hall for about 30 minutes,” Verlin said. “Then we had a couple of breakdowns.”
“For him to start knocking down shots hurt us.” Idaho’s leading scorer Trevon Allen said of Hall.
Allen was an efficient 10 of 17 from the floor, with three 3-pointers, for 23 points. Despite Montana State slowing Idaho’s offensive rotations and taking away rhythm 3s – forcing the Vandals to shoot flat-footed – Idaho still hit 10 of 30 from beyond the arc. Mitchell had four of those on eight attempts.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me,” Mitchell said.
“Ray was knocking down shots, and we kept going to him,” Allen said.
The Vandals surrendered the game’s first six points but drew even when Allen, Chance Garvin and Allen again curled off screens and drove for baskets.
The Bobcats, though, never let Idaho take the lead.
Throughout the period, Mitchell buried back-to-back 3-pointers, and twice Idaho got within two on Allen baskets. But MSU continued to shoot itself clear of the Vandals and led 30-21 at halftime.
Following a six-point loss to Weber State in which they outscored the Wildcats in the second half, a victory over Eastern Washington and an overtime defeat to Northern Colorado, the loss to Montana State looked like a step back.
“There’s no such thing as a step back,” Allen said. “Every game you find something good about yourself and something bad about yourself.”
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