Big Sky favorite Montana State turns North Dakota upside down – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Montana State won the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball title last season. And the Bobcats are expected to win the league again this season based on their returning experience.

And experienced teams know what to do on the road – keep the home team at bay.

Montana State executed that plan perfectly on Sunday, knocking it down in front of 1,225 fans AND 81-71 at The Betty.

“We took off some critical shots just to keep them at a distance,” said Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle. “And they missed some shots that they usually do, which is going to happen.”

The Bobcats didn’t put on a great run – 8 points being their biggest – instead relying on making timely shots and relying on their inside-outside game that AND couldn’t handle.

Raequan Battle dominated the outside area (30 points) while Jubrile Belo dominated the inside (16 points, 10 rebounds).

“Obviously this is a team that will be fighting for the Big Sky title,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “But this is a game our boys can learn from. There is so much we can get out of this game to grow and get better. This is a team that’s polished and we’re not, so we have to get tougher and get better.”

AND dropped to 2-3. As expected, it’s been an up and down for the youthful Hawks so far. They’ve won twice en route, at Incarnate Word and Elon, who lost an 11-point game to North Carolina State.

“There’s no question that we’ve made progress,” Sather said. “Two away wins were great for us. We played quite well today. But we talked about having toughness. We had to play 40 minutes and we had to be harder.”

AND placed three players in double digits – Mitchell Sueker (18), BJ Omot (14) and Treysen Eaglestaff (10). Omot and Eaglestaff are true newbies.

“I felt like we could have come out and been a bit more aggressive,” said Omot. “We weren’t as aggressive in the first half as we were in the second. We haven’t really understood each other yet. But it’s only the beginning of the season. We’ll learn from that and I still think we’ll be a pretty good team.”

AND hosts Wisconsin-Stout, a Division III team, on Tuesday.

Stout is 2-3 but had a wild 147-126 win over Greenville this season, a game in which Brody Fox scored 70 points. He is the younger brother of Parker Fox, who played for Sather at Northern State before moving to Minnesota.

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UND’s Caleb Nero dribbles around Montana State’s Darius Brown II in the first half.

Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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UND’s BJ Omot hits a jumper in the first half against Montana State Sunday.

Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald