GRAND FORKS, ND — After just 40 hours of play, the Montana State men’s basketball team earned an 81-71 away win over North Dakota on Sunday afternoon.
Offensively, Montana State (3-2) relied on RaeQuan Battle’s career-best 30 points in 12-for-20 shooting, plus double-doubles from Jubrile Belo (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Caleb Fuller (13 points and 10 rebounds) . . Battle’s 30-point performance marked the first time a Bobcat had scored 30 or more points in a single game since Belo did so against Sacramento State on March 6, 2021.
“We’ve put in a tremendous effort — especially after a brief turnaround,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle told Bobcat Radio Network. “I loved Jubrile Belo and RaeQuan Battle in the first half. They really energized us and got us going. And Caleb Fuller was great – I’m really happy for him. He fought so it’s great to see he’s being rewarded.”
Defensively, the Bobcats held North Dakota (2-3) through 7 for 23 (30.4%) from 3-point range and forced 10 turnovers. Montana State shot the Fighting Hawks 50.8% to 44.1% from the field.
“North Dakota shot 44 percent for the game, but in the end they probably scored five or six goals,” Sprinkle said. “We probably had a shooting range of just under 40 percent, which is our goal. But our defense and rebounds helped towards the end. We have key stops when we needed it.”
Belo opened the scoring with a dunk, but the Fighting Hawks took an early lead after hitting two of their first three three-pointers. Nine straight points from Battle made it a 12-11 game in favor of North Dakota at the 14:46 mark.
Defensively, Darius Brown II was a key player for the Bobcats, coming on from the bench and forcing two turnovers in North Dakota that led to points at Montana State. The Bobcats, topped by back-to-back baskets from Belo, used an 8-0 run to forge a 17-12 lead with an 11-19 first-half lead.
With less than two minutes left at halftime, Brown II lobbed Battle to a lob and then pocketed a 3 to give MSU a double-digit lead for the first time this afternoon. The Bobcats had a 37-27 lead at halftime, at which point they were overtaking North Dakota by 51.6% to 32.1%.
Battle opened the scoring for MSU in the second half when he blew past his defender to hit a right-hander after the shot clock ran out. The Montana state greats continued to hold their own against North Dakota: Belo whistled and wore down the Fighting Hawks front, then Great Osobor gave MSU a 12-point lead with 15:47 left.
But North Dakota got the bonus with 14:54 in the game and snapped its drought with two free throws from Matt Norman. This sparked a 7-3 run over the next two minutes that was only stopped by Battle’s corner 3. North Dakota would draw within eight, but the Bobcats countered with a 6-0 run in 1 minute and 39 seconds to give a 54-40 lead.
North Dakota State was led by Mitchell Sueker with 18 points while freshman BJ Omot contributed 14 points. For Montana State, Ford III finished with eight points, four rebounds and one assist with no turnovers. Brown II added seven points, four rebounds, four assists and a season-high, three steals from the bench. Sunday’s game marked the fifth time that MSU had at least nine players earn points.
This week Montana State travels to Montreal, Canada for the Northern Classic where the Bobcats will face UNC Greensboro on Friday, Quinnipiac on Saturday and Middle Tennessee State on Sunday.