Big efforts from Battle, Belo and Fuller help Montana State win in North Dakota

LARGE 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) . , the latter of which had his best game in a Bobcat uniform. 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 made a tremendous effort — especially after a brief turnaround,” said the Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said Bobcat Radio Network. “I loved Jubrile Belo and RaeQuan Battle in the first half. They really gave us energy and got us going. And Caleb Fuller was great – I’m really happy for him. He fought so it’s great to see him rewarded.”

Defensively, the Bobcats held North Dakota (2-3) with a 7-on-23 (30.4%) from three goals and forced 10 turnovers. Montana State beat the Fighting Hawks 50.8% to 44.1% — a percentage bolstered by a string of late field goals as North Dakota attempted to make a comeback.

“North Dakota shot 44 percent for the game, but in the end they probably scored five or six goals,” Sprinkle said. “We probably had them almost under 40 percent shot, which is our goal. But our defense and rebounds helped towards the end. We got important stops when we needed it.”

Jubrie Belo opened the scoring with a dunk, but the Fighting Hawks took an early lead after scoring two of their first three three-pointers. Nine straight points from RaeQuan 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.

Towards the end of the first half, North Dakota got cold from the deep and went 1-of-9 from long range as the Bobcats extended their lead to seven with points in the paint. Battle consistently got his defenders out of dribble for floaters in the paint, then Tyler Patterson beat the North Dakota defense with a back-cut for his first points of the evening, but Belo was the constant force inside. The elder forward amassed eight points and five rebounds while putting the North Dakota bigs in trouble early on.

With less than two minutes left at halftime, Brown II lobbed Battle to a lob and then pocketed a three 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, only stopped by Battle’s third turn. North Dakota would draw within eight, but the Bobcats countered with a 6-0 run in 1 minute and 39 seconds to take a 54-40 lead.

Late in the second half, North Dakota found its rhythm from the three, going 3-on-4 from the deep to slice through MSU’s lead. The Fighting Hawks drew within seven points as Montana State kept them at bay, with Battle dwarfing the 30-point mark, a deep three from Ford III and an emphatic dunk from Belo with a 2:33 left.

Though North Dakota made a final push with 11 points in the final 2 minutes and 19 seconds, Montana State extended their lead by taking eight free throws on the stretch to seal the win.

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, November 25, Quinnipiac on November 26, and Middle Tennessee State on November 27.

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