Make it nine in a row. Brian Fish’s first year as the head coach of the Montana State Men’s Basketball team has not gotten off to a good start. Over halfway through the season, the Bobcats are just 3-14 and currently on a nine game losing tumble. To be certain nobody expected the team to start strong under a new coach and system — especially with powerhouses like UCLA and Kentucky on the schedule — but the team is having an especially rough time settling in.
The latest loss came Saturday night in Missoula against the archrival Grizzlies, 63-48 with a score that appears much closer than the game really was. This season the Cats have struggled on the offensive end, and Saturday night was an especially poor showing. As a whole, the team shot 26 percent from the floor and missed an large number of layups and tip-ins throughout the contest.
The Bobcats played acceptable defense, holding the Griz to just 29 points at the half, but only scored 19 of their own. However, the entire game Montana State was plagued by long scoring droughts, allowing the opposing squad to build a lead. The Cats lacked the offensive firepower to close those gaps throughout. Bobcats turned the ball over 14 times but also generated 14 turnovers on the defensive end, however they were outrebounded 41-34 and scored just six points in the paint to the Grizzlies 22. With no offensive rhythm and no interior presence, the Cats were simply outmatched both in the frontcount and in the backcourt.
Senior shooting guard Michael Dison led the Bobcats in scoring, posting 17 points on 6-17 shooting. Junior forward Danny Robison contributed nine points on 3-10 from the floor and grabbed four rebounds. Senior forward Eric Norman provided a spark off the bench for Fish’s squad. Norman only scored six points and shot 2-9 from the field but had nine rebounds and six blocks to tie a career high in that category.
For the Grizzlies, big man Martin Breunig had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Mario Dunn also had an efficient 17 points and forward Fabijan Krslovic put up nine points.
The loss drops the Bobcats to just 3-14 on the season and 0-5 in conference play. At the same point through last season, the Bobcats were 9-8 and 4-1 in the Big Sky Conference before winning just five of their final 14 games. This season, the team seemingly cannot break through and find a way to win close games. Patience is necessary to the development of the young team, but the Cats will need to find reliable and efficient offense both on the inside and outside if they are going to stop this losing skid. The Bobcats will try to do exactly that this weekend, with Southern Utah and Northern Arizona coming into town on Thursday and Saturday respectively. On Thursday, the game will tip off at 7:05 p.m. and will tip off at 2:35 p.m. on Saturday.