The Montana State Bobcats men’s basketball team finally returned home over the Thanksgiving break after a long road trip. The Cats, led by new head coach Brian Fish officially started their season on the road with a 113-78 loss to the historically powerful UCLA Bruins and capped their journey with a historic 86-28 loss to current national No. 1 ranked Kentucky. Against the Wildcats, Montana State went on an over ten minute scoring drought and didn’t pass 11 points until over halfway through the second half. The 28 points allowed by Kentucky were their fewest points allowed in the modern shot clock era.
“It was long, it was grinding,” Fish said of the 12 day road trip and of the opponents. “I don’t want to put pressure on Coach Calipari, because they still have stuff to work on, but certainly in the month of November, that’s the best team I’ve ever seen.”
The Cats did not appear discouraged by the loss when they returned to Brick Breeden Fieldhouse last Friday to face the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks. After their awful offensive showing a week prior, the Cats exploded offensively, crushing the Mavericks 104-81.
Each of the five Bobcat starters finished the game scoring in double digits, with senior guard Michael Dison putting up 32 points, including a team-high eight 3-pointers. As a team, the Cats hit 18 shots from beyond the arc with sophomore guard Stephan Holm posting 25 points, including seven treys of his own. Additionally, Montana State was able to limit their turnovers to just ten while earning 22 assists, nine of which came from senior guard Marcus Colbert.
Two days later, the Bobcats continued their homestand against a tough North Dakota State Bison squad. The Bison danced in the NCAA tournament last season, advancing to the round of 32 after knocking off Oklahoma in the opening round. The Cats were able to keep pace with the Bison for much of the first half before North Dakota State began to pull away thanks to a big advantage both on the glass and at the 3-point line.
Down 37-27 at the half, the Bobcats came out looking to close the gap, but every time they drew close, the Bison answered with a flurry of points and managed to extend their lead to as many as 26 points during the second half before finishing the game 72-51.
Dison and Holm led the Cats in scoring once more, posting 17 and 11 points respectively. However, the offense never really found a rhythm, shooting just 34 percent from the field and 71 percent from the charity stripe.
Montana State’s record stands at just 1-5 on the season, but have already played what are surely their toughest opponents of the year in the Bruins and the Wildcats. The Bobcats still have a number of non-conference games to get things on track in Fish’s debut season before their first conference game on Jan. 1 at home against North Dakota.