BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State's strong first half led the Bobcats to a 79-68 victory over North Dakota in Big Sky play Saturday at Worthington Arena. Freshman Tray Buchanan led UND with a career-high 19 points in his first career start, but Big Sky Preseason Player of the Year Tyler Hall had a game-high 25 and 17 of those coming in a big first half for the Bobcat junior.
The victory allowed Montana State (11-6, 4-0 BSC) to start 4-0 in league action for the first time since 2004-05, while the Fighting Hawks (4-11, 0-4 BSC) dropped their eighth-straight overall.
UND had a chance in the second half, but could never get closer than seven points despite a much better defensive effort. The Bobcats shot 53 percent from the floor to open a 45-31 lead at the break, but shot just 38 percent in the closing 20 minutes.
Junior Cortez Seales added 15 points for the Fighting Hawks and Marlon Stewart added 10 points in his first game coming off the bench this season.
UND opened the second half on a 9-1 run, which Geno Crandall capped with his first five points of the contest, to force an MSU timeout and trim the deficit to 46-38.
Hall pushed the lead back to its halftime margin with three free throws before Stewart scored five straight to get it back to a nine-point spread with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Bobcats' lead would hover around 10 points the rest of the way with UND managing to close within seven after a Crandall layup in the closing two minutes, but Joe Mvuezolo would put down a pair of dunks in the final 70 seconds to seal the win.
The game was tight early and Dale Jones squared things at 16-16 with 12:27 to play, but missed a chance at a 3-point play and from there the Bobcats took over. Harold Frey knocked back-to-back 3-pointers and a trey by Hall capped an 11-3 run that made it a 27-19 contest.
Stewart made two free throws coming out of the final media timeout to trim the Fighting Hawks' deficit down to five at 34-29, but Hall and company would close out the half on an 11-3 run.
Hall made two more triples in that closing stretch, including one from beyond 30 feet that stretched MSU's lead to double figures for the first time. He finished the opening 20 minutes with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep and the Bobcats finished 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) as a team.
Two of those 3-pointers came off second chances as MSU turned 13 offensive-boards into 15 second-chance points during the game and outrebounded UND 42-29.
-- UND --