As Montana traveled to Bozeman to take on bitter rival, Montana State, injuries were the focus for both teams before the game. Montana junior guard Timmy Falls and Montana State’s star senior guard Harald Frey suffered ankle injuries during UM’s and MSU’s last games. Both players played in Saturday’s match-up and UM came out on top, 59-54.
“It's just special,” said UM Senior Guard Kendal Manuel about playing in Bozeman for the final time. “It’s something I'll never forget.”
The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse sold out for the game, with 6,750 fans listed in attendance.
Both teams were unable to take an early lead in the game. UM senior guard Sayeed Pridgett made a layup early to equalize the score at 10-10. Pridgett finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“It's a bittersweet situation,” said Pridgett after playing his last regular-season game against MSU. “There are not very many places you can play a game and have an environment like this.
Manuel hit a 3-point jump shot halfway into the first half to help UM take a 15-13 lead. UM never permitted MSU to tie the game or take the lead after Manuel’s shot. He finished with a game-high of 19 points.
Manuel drove to the point and finished a tough layup over an MSU defender later in the half to help UM take a commanding 28-18 lead.
UM went into halftime with a 28-20 lead over its state rival. UM’s defense locked down onto MSU, only allowing the team to make 30% of its shots in the first half. UM converted on 44.4% of its first-half shot attempts.
An MSU student made a free throw, 3-pointer, half-court shot and a buzzer-beating, SportsCenter worthy, full-court shot to win $11,111 during halftime.
In the second half, MSU inched back into the game when junior guard Amin Adamu threw down a ferocious slam dunk to make the score 37-34.
Adamu won 12 points for the Bobcats along with four rebounds and three assists.
UM senior forward Jared Samuelson and Manuel made back-to-back shots to expand UM’s advantage to 42-34 in the second half. Samuelson had four points and five rebounds during the game.
With two minutes to play, Frey tried all that he could to bring MSU back into the game. Frey made a 3-pointer and then converted on back-to-back shots, where he was fouled. Frey’s efforts made it so MSU was only trailing by four points, with the score at 53-49.
Frey led MSU in scoring with 18 points, despite only making four of his 13 shot attempts. Frey made nine of the 10 free-throws he shot against UM.
When UM missed a shot after Frey’s heroics, it seemed like MSU could pull down a rebound and make the game even closer. But then, UM freshman forward Derrick Carter-Hollinger destroyed MSU’s chances when he pulled down an offensive rebound and then made a tough layup to extend UM’s lead to six.
Carter-Hollinger made six points for UM to go along with his five rebounds. Many other freshmen found their way onto the court during the game, including UM’s Josh Vazquez, Kyle Owens and Eddy Egun and MSU’s Borja Fernandez and Caleb Bellach.
“They’re [UM] gonna be good, they always are,” said MSU’s head coach Danny Sprinkle about all of the freshman playing in the game. “It's up to me and my staff to develop our guys.”
Manuel made a heavily-contested layup a little later in the game to put UM up at 57-49 and seal the game with 42.9 seconds left. The game finished with a score of 59-54.
Montana has won 19 of its last 20 match-ups with MSU. UM head coach Travis DeCuire advanced to 17-3 overall against MSU.
Montana has swept MSU in nine of its last 10 season series.
UM’s record improved to 17-10 with a 13-3 record in conference play, while MSU’s record dropped to 14-13 with an 8-8 conference record.
UM will travel to Northern Arizona on Feb. 27 for its next game.