BOZEMAN — All five Montana State men's basketball starters scored in double figures Sunday, leading to a win over Southeast Missouri and an undefeated trip to San Antonio this weekend.
Led by 17 points, six rebounds and five blocks from Jubrile Belo, the Bobcats recorded a 75-68 win to improve to 4-3 this season. They were the only team to go undefeated over three games at the Cardinal Thanksgiving Invitational.
MSU erased a four-point halftime lead by the Redhawks and overcame many stoppages in play in the second half to secure the win.
“It was a very physical game, and it was a really hard game to referee,” Bobcats coach Danny Sprinkle said. “That’s what SEMO does. They’re super aggressive, physical, big. They stunted us a little bit in the first half with their pressure and physicality, and then we came out in the second half and responded.”
Belo’s fellow starters also put together well-rounded games. Xavier Bishop finished with 14 points to go with five assists and four rebounds. Abdul Mohamed supplied 10 points, eight boards and four steals. Tyler Patterson hit four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points, and Amin Adamu recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
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The Bobcats hit 21 of 26 foul shots in the final 20 minutes to keep well ahead of the Redhawks and build a lead to as many as 15 points.
Southeast Missouri, though, narrowed the score to 73-68 with 21 seconds remaining. But Nick Gazelas pushed the lead back up to seven with a pair of free throws, and the Redhawks missed a shot on the other end, sealing MSU’s win.
The Redhawks (3-4) started the game on an 8-0 run as Montana State struggled to find its footing. The Bobcats were buoyed early by Mohamed’s first eight points and all four of Kellen Tynes’ points in the first 8 minutes of the game to trail only 13-12 at the second media timeout.
Adamu scored his first bucket on the next possession for MSU’s first lead. The teams passed the advantage back and forth for the rest of the half, though, until SEMO took a 31-27 edge into the break.
Belo made his presence known in the second half, when he scored 15 of his points and recorded all five of his blocks. He also hit one free throw with 16:36 remaining to tie the game at 34. Two possessions later, Belo passed out of a double-team in the post to Bishop for a 3-pointer. MSU never trailed again.
“He was tremendous,” Sprinkle said. “Those five blocks were huge, too, because they were down the stretch when we had a five-point lead or a seven-point lead. He saved probably three layups by him coming over and making some unbelievable blocks.”
Southeast Missouri’s offense was led primarily by Phillip Russell and Chris Harris, who each hit six shots from the field and finished with 21 and 17 points, respectively. The Redhawks forced Montana State into 17 turnovers. Sprinkle said it was good to be challenged physically again, just as the Bobcats were in wins against Portland and Incarnate Word the previous two days.
“That’s what we’re going to see in league,” he said. “Montana, Southern Utah, Weber, Sac State, everybody in our league is physical, Idaho State. It was great for us to play three different styles of teams this weekend, because we’re going to see a lot of that in league.”
Big Sky Conference play begins briefly this week with trips to Northern Colorado and Sacramento State on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. After that, the Bobcats return to nonconference play and return home for most of the rest of December.
Parker Cotton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @ByParkerCotton.