BOZEMAN, Mont. — In addition to a great week for the Montana State Athletics, the Bobcat men’s basketball team returns to Bozeman this Friday at 5:30 p.m. for a game against Warner Pacific
The Bobcats (1-2) return home Friday, November 18 at 5:30 p.m. for a game against Warner Pacific in a doubleheader with the Montana State women’s basketball team to be unveiled between the two games of the doubleheader. Tickets to this game are $5 with a canned donation to help Can the Griz.
Friday is Montana State’s regular season home opener and one of only four non-conference home games on the schedule. Under head coach Danny Sprinkle‘s direction, the Bobcats have won their last three home games of the regular season. This is the second meeting ever between MSU and Warner Pacific, a NAIA school from the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
“Warner Pacific is a smaller team that will play with five players on the fringes,” said the Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “We’ve got to bounce the basketball off both ends and really take advantage of that. Warner Pacific have a couple of guys who can really score, so we have to be aware of them.”
The Bobcats are coming off a two-game road trip in Long Beach State and Oregon — two teams that made it to the NIT last season and are expected to finish as some of the leaders in their respective conferences. After a 70-57 opening win on Sunday at LBSU, the Bobcats lost 81-51 in Oregon on Tuesday.
“I really like the attitude of our team,” Sprinkle said. “We’ve been used in a few challenging places but I like how together the team is. Your attitude was great. There’s a lot of things we need to clean up, but we’re looking pretty good up front and we’ve done a pretty good job on defense and rebounding.”
Defense has always been the Bobcats’ calling card. The team ranks third in Big Sky in scoring defense (66.6 points per game allowed), third in opponent’s three-point field goal percentage (32.3%) and fourth in blocked shots (3.33 blocks per game).
“In terms of team defense, we’ve gotten a lot better over the past few weeks,” Sprinkle said. “I think our guards need to get a lot better with defending on the ball and we need to position ourselves better for the teams above us to score. Sometimes I think we did well, but I feel like there were times when we gave up too many layups.”
One constant for MSU has been the RaeQuan Battle rating. The junior guard has scored back-to-back 20-point nights for the first time in his career. After a career-high 24 points at LBSU, Battle led the Bobcats with a game-high 20 points in Oregon on Tuesday. Battle also leads the Big Sky Conference in points per game (17.3) and ranks sixth in field goal percentage (39.6%).
“We need RaeQuan to remain aggressive,” Sprinkle said. “We need him to improve his shot rates but he looks clean. He didn’t take bad shots. Even though he had two 20-point games in a row, he could easily have had 30-point nights.”
Co-guard Darius Brown II has been a welcome addition to the Bobcats so far. The CSUN transfer has so far averaged 6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and a team-high 3.3 assists per game, and its 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks seventh among all big Sky players. The Pasadena, Calif. native had his best game in an MSU uniform last Sunday when he scored 11 points in 3-for-7 shooting and added five rebounds and four assists in the team’s win at Long Beach State.
After Friday’s game, the Bobcats will head east Sunday at 12:00 p.m. MT for a game in North Dakota. This game will be broadcast on AND Insider. This begins a five-game road trip spanning two states and two continents. From North Dakota, the Bobcats travel to Montreal, Canada for three games in the Northern Classic beginning November 25 against UNC Greensboro at 2:30 p.m. MT. A road game in southern Utah will cap off the road trip on November 30 at 7 p.m