Back in town, the Bobcats hit their stride

Halfway through head coach Brian Fish’s second season, at times it still seems that his young squad is trying to find their identity. A weekend win against University of Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 23 may prove to be just the spark the team needed. The win capped off back-to-back home victories in which the Cats demonstrated an innate ability to perform. Over this past week, the men’s basketball team hosted Eastern Washington and Idaho. Coming off of the the tail of back-to-back losses on the road, the Cats were aching for redemption.

“That feeling of losing, especially at Northern Colorado, we felt like we were in that game. We were in a good position on the road, we just came up a little short. Everybody was just hungry [this week], ready to get better,” senior guard Marcus Colbert said about last week’s Colorado loss. This week’s win streak was sure to satisfy that appetite.

Last Thursday, Jan. 28 the Cats’ first game home was a contest against a 9-8 Eastern Washington squad. The Eagles pose one of the most efficient offenses in the Big Sky Conference, making the Cats’ ability to hold them to a 41.8 percent shooting average all the more impressive. The lead changed hands four times in the first half, neither team able to secure a solid lead until Colbert landed a three-pointer with seven minutes to go, igniting a 17 point scoring streak that was only broken by a missed field goal attempt by freshman guard Tyler Hall. The Cats went into the locker room up 38-30. Never again would the Cats lose the lead. They closed out the game with a secure lead of 85-71.

The dynamic duo guards, Colbert and Hall, dominated the scoreboard. Each player secured double digits for total points, leading the team in both games. Colbert and Hall have carried the Cats offensively throughout the season. The game against Eastern marked the first time since November – and just the second overall – that the two had each gone off for 20 in a game.

The Cats’ most recent contest saw them facing off against a 12-7 Idaho. The Vandals were playing without their starting guards, Victor Sanders and Perrion Callendret. “[The Vandals] were playing with an arm tied behind their backs,” Fish said. This gave the Bobcats a much needed advantage up front. Even with the advantage, the Cats turned the ball over nine times and were minus-2 in rebound margin in the first half. It wasn’t until the second half that they were able to posses the ball better and fought the league’s best rebounding team on even terms. In fact, the Cats’ overall performance in the first half was  dismal. The team had its worst shooting percentage ever in the opening half of the game after only completing 28 percent of their total shots. It wasn’t until the second half were they able to improve to 53 percent shooting average. The Cats secured the victory with a heart stopping finish, managing to hold off the Vandals in the closing minute with a pair of free-throw attempts being made by Hall to put the Cats ahead by four points. Followed up by solid inside defense in the last seconds of the game, the Vandals only managed to secure a layup in the paint to finish the game 70-68.

Montana State's Zach Green (0) goes to the hoop against Bogdan Bliznyuk (32) during Thursday night's 85-71 upset win over Eastern Washington.
Montana State’s Zach Green (0) goes to the hoop against Bogdan Bliznyuk (32) during Thursday night’s 85-71 upset win over Eastern Washington.

The men’s basketball team goes on to face the University of Montana Grizzlies at home this Saturday, Jan. 30 in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at 7:05 p.m.