|‘Birds narrowly outfight MSU|
|Written by Kevin Massoth, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Sunday, 05 December 2010 19:57|
An unfamiliar cast of stars led the ISU men’s basketball team to a 62-56 win over Montana State Saturday night at Redbird Arena.
Sophomores John Wilkins and Anthony Cousin came off the ISU bench to spark the Redbird attack and each set new career-highs in points scored with 16 and 13, respectively.
“I always feel comfortable with whoever is playing well that night,” ISU head coach Tim Jankovich said. “You get a feel in the last seven, eight, nine minutes, and sometimes way earlier, who’s really in the flow. Obviously these guys were in the flow and that’s why we left them in there for so long.”
On a night when some of the Redbirds’ main offensive weapons were cold from the field, ISU counted on Wilkins and Cousin, as well as Tony Lewis, who led both teams with eight rebounds, to pick up the slack for the struggling Redbirds.
Austin Hill also scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with five rebounds for the ‘Birds.
ISU did not get its first field goal until 13:32 in the first half when Hill hit a jumper to cut the Bobcats’ lead to 5-3. Until that bucket the Redbirds were 0-9 from the field to fall behind early.
But the ‘Birds regained their composure behind 10 points in the first half by Cousin and seven from Wilkins to head into the locker room trailing by just three points at 32-29.
“Thankfully we had just enough guys that had a very good night, so I’m proud of our team effort of guys fighting through quite a bit of adversity, quite a bit of pressure right there,” Jankovich said.
The offensive side of the floor was not where these Redbirds made the biggest impact though, as they held the Bobcats to just 28 percent shooting in the second half to secure the ISU win.
In the first half the Bobcats shot lights out from behind the arc connecting on six of their nine attempts, but the ‘Birds made halftime adjustments to allow MSU to hit just three triples in the second half on 15 attempts.
“One of the things I was very concerned about with this team was their three-point shooting,” Jankovich said. “For us to hold them to 28 percent the second half to me is the story of the whole game, and it’s what I’m most proud of.”
The Bobcats jumped out to a 36-29 lead in the second half thanks to a couple turnovers by ISU and buckets from Cody Anderson and Erik Rush.
But the Redbirds responded with one of three threes on the game by Wilkins to inch closer at 36-32 at the 17:33 mark and later used a 15-4 run to take a 49-46 lead with just 4:22 remaining in the game.
The Bobcats cut the Redbird lead to 49-48 on a dunk by Rush, but that would be as close as they would get as ISU pulled away and saw its lead grow to as much as 11 in the final minutes.
“We had some decent shots, but just didn’t finish and convert and you have to do that on the road,” MSU head coach said. “They made it hard on our guns to get it in the basket and that was really the ballgame.
He added, “What you want to do on the road is be right where we were at and we just didn’t finish.”
The Bobcats were led by Danny Piepoli who scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Rush and Rod Singleton scored nine apiece to pace MSU.
“When the most important times come up you’ve got to just all come together as one and feed off each other’s energy,” Cousin said. “It allows us to just come together more and be a tougher team. We just kept our heads up and came out with a victory.”
The Redbirds shot 40 percent from the field, including 35 percent from behind the arc for the game, while the Bobcats shot just 35.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from behind the arc.
ISU will be back at it on Wednesday when they take on Ohio for a 7:05 game on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.