(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN — On an afternoon that pitted two former Montana State basketball icons against each other, the Montana State Bobcats outlasted the visiting Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets in a 56-49 exhibition game on Sunday.
In the end, Danny Sprinkle’s Montana State Bobcats pulled away from MSU Hall of Famer Mick Durham’s MSU Billings Yellowjackets thanks to Great Osobor’s game-high 13 points, important transition baskets from RaeQuan Battle (11 points) and Darius Brown II’s (7 points, 5 steals) effort on both ends of the floor.
“I think MSU Billings is a good team,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “They have four or five guys who can play at our level. If that team sticks together, they can do a lot of good things this year. For our side, we’ll get better. I was glad MSUB played some zone on us because we’re going to see a lot of that in the conference and in the non-conference. There will be some good teaching moments on the game film.”
In Sunday’s defensive-heavy battle, the Bobcats forced 20 turnovers and out-rebounded the Yellowjackets 40-39. Although the Yellowjackets started out hot, threes from RaeQuan Battle, Sam Lecholat and a nifty up-and-under layup from Great Osobor made it a one-point game with 13:25 to play.
Both teams pushed the pace midway through the first half and — in a common theme throughout the game — Darius Brown II got the crowd going with his first of five steals, which led to an alley-oop to Osobor. This sparked a 14-2 run that included a Tyler Patterson three, and six points off MSUB turnovers. At halftime, the Bobcats led 26-21.
In the second half, Lecholat and Jubrile Belo opened the scoring for the Bobcats by making right-handed layups through contact. The Yellowjackets kept pace until with 15:47 to go, the Bobcats deflected an inbounds pass that led to Battle skying in for a dunk.
A goaltending call on another Osobor dunk with 13:12 to play in the second half sparked a 6-0 Bobcats run. This run effectively put the game out of reach for the ‘Jackets. Four late points from Osobor, free throws from Gazelas and Brown II and two MSUB turnovers after the final media timeout helped the Bobcats pull away with the win.
“I thought Great Osobor played well,” Sprinkle said. “He sparked us with his energy. I also think Robert Ford III and Caleb Fuller did some great things.”
Carrington Wiggins led the Yellowjackets with 12 points and senior forward Bilal Shabazz led the ‘Jackets with 11 rebounds to go along with his four points.
On Sunday, the Bobcats honored Durham with a pre-game ceremony involving a video tribute from his children and former players, plus he was presented with a game ball by Sprinkle and MSU Director of Athletics Leon Costello.
Upon Durham’s retirement in 2006, he was the Big Sky’s winningest coach with 246 wins, which ranks second all-time at Montana State. The Three Forks, Mont. native was a three-time Big Sky Coach of the Year award winner, plus he coached Sprinkle during MSU’s 1995-96 Big Sky Championship team that made the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history.
“Honoring Mick Durham was the best part about today,” Sprinkle said. “He is this program to me. For 29 years, he was the Montana State men’s basketball program. I know how much this place means to him, so I am happy to have him back.”
Montana State’s season officially starts on Nov. 7 with a road game at Grand Canyon University. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Single-game and season tickets for all home games can be found at msubobcats.com/tickets.