BOZEMAN — Brian Fish didn’t have much interest in discussing the nuances of Montana State’s 78-73 exhibition victory over NAIA MSU-Northern on Wednesday. Instead, the coach decried his team's performance.
“Selfish, bad basketball team,” Fish said. “No leadership. Nobody buying in. Nobody doing what’s asked. Bad coaching. A team that’s a million miles away from being a good basketball team. The best team didn’t win tonight. We should have lost.
“That’s as bad as we’ve been in my four years. Tonight.”
In a game that followed an 86-64 victory by the MSU women over Montana Tech, the Bobcats committed 27 fouls defensively and turned the ball over 17 times. Usually a sure-fire 3-point-shooting team, they made just 2 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Fish was disappointed in a lack of communication on defense — an aspect of the game he has consistently implored his team to adopt — and an unwillingness to share the ball offensively. This game didn't count toward the standings, but Fish said he has seen these habits crop up since practice began a month ago.
“We had guys looking to score,” Fish said. “We don’t (have) anybody willing to make a play, willing to make an assist, willing to run, willing to do what I’m asking them to do. I call a play, we don’t run it ... I’m as disjointed with this team as I could possibly be.”
Northern, of the Frontier Conference, forced seven lead-changes in the second half and battled back from a 10-point deficit to keep the game competitive. The Bobcats had enough juice to stave off the Lights, but Fish wasn’t absorbed with the final score.
The message seemed to trickle down to the players afterward, as Tyler Hall and Konner Frey each talked about how disappointing the performance was.
“Credit to (Northern), but I think this was a great opportunity for us to really look at ourselves in the mirror a little bit and understand where we’ve really got to make some strides,” Frey said.
The Bobcats open the season for real Dec. 10 versus Omaha at Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
“I’d say we’re a long way away,” Fish said. “We just wasted 22 practices of what I’ve been asking them to do, and they decided to do what they wanted to do. Right now it’s a one-sided, selfish basketball team. We’ll see if we can’t address that and find a couple guys to be leaders.”
Freshmen rise up
Replacing the production of graduated seniors Peyton Ferris and Riley Nordgaard is no small task, but that’s the challenge facing MSU women’s coach Tricia Binford.
But Binford got a great glimpse into the not-so-distant future in the win over Montana Tech, as the freshman trio of Tori Martell, Laura Pranger and Ashley Van Sickle combined for 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
“The freshman class, from what they did today, that’s what we’ve been seeing in practice,” Binford said. “Tori has been lighting up every practice, Laura is somebody that has a lot of length, and I thought (Ashley) was super settled.”
Not that MSU’s roster isn’t dotted with its share of returning standouts from last year’s Big Sky Conference championship team. Guards Hannah Caudill and Delany Junkermier and post Blair Braxton, in particular, give the Bobcats enough firepower to retain hopes for another league-title run.
An errant elbow opened up a cut on Junkermier’s lip in the first quarter, but the senior from Spokane, Washington, returned to net a game-high 20. Caudill, though she scored just two points while fighting through an illness, dished out three assists. Caudill has her eyes set this season on the school record for career assists.
Tech was led by Sammy McGree’s 19 points and Kourtney Coverdell’s 15.
Still, this night was more of a showcase for new Bobcat blood, especially for Martell, a product of Somerset, Wisconsin. Martell had 15 points, six rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.
“She’s a shooter. She’s a baller,” Junkermier said of Martell. “She can shoot from anywhere, has great moves, super-fast ... so I was just really happy that she could show it off tonight.”