BOZEMAN, Mont. — Montana State held Eastern Washington to its lowest offensive output of the season and handed the Eagles their first Big Sky loss on Thursday night, snapping the visitors’ nine-game winning streak in the process with a 70-60 victory at Worthington Arena.
Montana State (11-11, 6-3 Big Sky) answered the bell at every turn with key stops and timely buckets, rising to the challenge of an Eastern Washington squad that had won 12 of their last 13 before coming to Bozeman.
“We keep growing because we’re willing to learn,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We obviously learned a really tough lesson on Sunday that helped us tonight. It all started with our attitude as a group. They chose what attitude to believe about themselves coming into this game, and you saw what they’re capable of tonight. I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”
Eastern Washington (13-8, 7-1 Big Sky) entered the game ranked 24th in the country in three-point percentage, but were held to just 2-of-18 (11.1%) shooting from beyond the arc, as the Cats pressed them off the line and forced them to take contested looks.
Montana State was uncharacteristically subpar from beyond the arc as well, finishing 9-of-33 (27.3%) from deep, but made up for it with physicality and a season-high 14 offensive rebounds—leading to the Cats taking 16 more shots than their opponent.
Robert Ford III was special, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and five rebounds. The six steals are tied for the eighth-most in a single game in Bobcat history, one shy of Ford’s career-high seven steals earlier this season against Green Bay.
The redshirt senior scored 13 points in the second half alone, helping put away the Eagles in front of a raucous crowd of 3,012 inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
“I don’t know that anybody is playing better basketball than Robert Ford right now,” Logie said. “I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a relentless worker, he’s a relentless competitor, and he’s been coachable—there’s been things that we’ve asked him to change about his game this year and he’s seen some tremendous success because of his commitment to coaching.”
Sam Lecholat recorded his first career double-double in the win, finishing with 11 points and ten rebounds while playing a season-high 32 minutes.
The junior provided a massive boost off the bench, making hustle play after hustle play and nabbing five offensive rebounds.
“I’m really proud of him,” Logie said of Lecholat. “He’s a guy that we’ve needed during this stretch—and we knew he was capable of more, and he continues to step up to the plate. Made a big three there tonight—we just kept encouraging him to keep shooting, and so I’m just really proud of his mental toughness. His five offensive rebounds were huge.”
Montana State forced Eastern Washington into 18 turnovers, recording 11 steals—the eighth time this season the Cats have tallied double-digit steals.
Brian Goracke chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, crossing the 1,000 career points plateau in the process. The junior scored 666 career points at Point Loma and has scored 337 in just 22 games as a Bobcat this season.
Brandon Walker added 11 points and Eddie Turner finished with nine points.
The Bobcats led 32-25 after a physical first half, with the Eagles shooting just 1-of-11 from range and Walker leading the home side with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Buckets from Ford, Turner, and Patterson helped stretch the lead to 11 at 46-35 with 13:41 remaining. The Bobcats went punch-for-punch with the Eagles trading baskets as the midway point of the second half ticked by, leading by 12 at 55-43 on a Ford triple with 10:07 to go.
Eastern Washington chipped away and got the deficit to 55-49 with 8:12 to play, but after a Walker spin and layup in the paint, would not get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Montana State led for nearly 36 minutes.
Eastern Washington’s previous low point total in Big Sky play was 77. Thursday marked the first time the Eagles had been out-rebounded since December 18.
Montana State hosts Idaho on Saturday evening at Worthington Arena.
Tip is set for 6 p.m.
The game will be “No More Stolen Relatives” as the Cats partner with the American Indian Council of MSU to pay tribute to missing and murdered indigenous people.
The game will be streamed on ESPN+, with live radio play-by-play airing on the Bobcat Sports Radio Network.