Cats come up short against Thunderbirds

Tyler Hall exits the floor after Montana State's 109-105 triple-overtime loss to Southern Utah.

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Montana State men's basketball team put together its best season since 2002 with 11 Big Sky Conference wins and 16 wins overall.

But on Tuesday night, it came to a heartbreaking end in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

The 6th-seeded Bobcats fell to 11th-seeded Southern Utah in triple-overtime, 109-105. The 214 combined points broke the Big Sky Tournament record of 207 set by Montana State and Weber State in 1987.

"It hurts," said sophomore guard Tyler Hall after the game. "With all the work we've been putting in since the summer, we didn't want it to come out like this."

Hall dropped 33 points on the Thunderbirds, while fellow sophomore guard Devonte Klines scored a career-high 25 points in the losing effort.

MSU also set another tournament record with 18 made three-pointers, but it also took the Cats a record 49 attempts to get those threes to fall.

Southern Utah junior Randy Onwuasor scored a tournament record 43 points behind another record 20 made free throws to lift the Thunderbirds to their first-ever victory at the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

Montana State held a 15-point lead with 18:11 remaining in the game, but SUU was able to erase its deficit to force overtime.

"They just started attacking us on both ends," Hall said. "They started out-hustling us, out-rebounding us, and we were taking quick shots with the 1-3-1 zone. They just kind of had us stagnant there for a while."

Onwuasor and his teammates did a lot of their damage from the free throw line late, scoring 16 of their 31 overtime points from the charity stripe.

Although the pain from the loss is certainly fresh, there are some positives the Bobcats are taking away from this season, and they believe there is a brighter future ahead for the team.

"I enjoyed the season, and I know we all enjoyed it, so we don't want to take that away from the season we had," Hall said. "It's hard to look at right now, but I think we're still young and we're looking forward to being back."

Montana State lost in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament for the second straight season, and finished the campaign with a 16-16 record.