An early 11-point lead slowly evaporated to a 11-point loss by the Bobcats, who fell apart down the stretch against South Dakota in their Ramada International Bracketbuster game on Sunday.
The Bobcats led by 11 at the 14-minute mark of the first half, but allowed an 18-2 run at the end of the second half. The Bobcats’ press defense was continually defeated for fast-break points late in the second half, and turnovers proved to be a problem.
Head Coach Brad Huse commended the shooting of the Coyotes, whose guards dropped multiple threes off the dribble in the second half to seal it. “I thought we contributed to that with some really quick offensive possessions,” he said. “It’s a demon of ours. We settle. We took 10 threes in the first half, and only took six in the second half and made more.”
MSU took 16 threes and hit seven, but some of those shots were forced. South Dakota shot 49 percent for the game, but their shooting improved from 42 percent in the first half, indicative of MSU’s defensive collapse late in the game.
Despite the final score, the Bobcats had a chance to win the game. A tip in by Xavier Blount cut the lead to six with just under four minutes to play, but a blocking foul by Marcus Colbert, which was a call deemed questionable by the crowd, swung the momentum back to the Coyotes. MSU followed that up with two turnovers by Paul Egwuonwu, which stretched the Coyote lead to nine.
“I thought early on we definitely had a leg up but didn’t sustain it,” Huse said. “We’re probably a little fragile right now. When a team makes a run on us we’re not necessarily answering it the right way.” Huse’s frustration was evident late in the second half, when he pulled Egwuonwu after his two turnovers and told him to hustle off the floor. Egwuonwu proceeded to walk.
Blount led the Bobcats with 16 points, and Antonio Biglow scored 15, but the Bobcats gave up 23 points off 12 turnovers. “Turnovers were critical,” Huse said. Just a month ago, the Bobcats were tied with powerhouse Duke University in turnover ratio, but now they can’t seem to hold onto the ball.
“We weren’t clicking on all cylinders,” said Huse. “During their run we didn’t keep our poise, we didn’t react the right way, and that’s disappointing.”
The Bobcats travel to Southern Utah on Thursday. They’ll host rival Montana on Saturday, March 2 at 7:05 p.m. in an attempt to salvage their season.