BOISE, Idaho — With a 3-pointer from the right wing early in the first half, Tyler Hall joined the NCAA’s exclusive 2,500-point club. It served as one more watershed moment in a career full of milestones. But for Hall, Thursday marked the end of his distinguished four-year run at Montana State.
More difficult for Hall was the fact that the Bobcats were eliminated from the Big Sky Conference tournament.
Mason Peatling had 28 points and 14 rebounds and Cody Benzel added 22 points as Eastern Washington beat MSU 90-84 in the quarterfinal round at CenturyLink Arena. The Bobcats rallied from 12 points down with less than 8 minutes left but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Hall hit a pair of late 3-pointers to tie it 81-81 with a little more than a minute left. Keljin Blevins also kept MSU in it late with a corner 3 to keep it a one-point game with 23.3 seconds to go.
Trailing by two, the Bobcats had a chance to take the lead in the final moments but Hall uncharacteristically missed everything. From there the Eagles sealed it from the foul line.
“I came off the screen and he sagged off,” said Hall, who had 20 points but endured a 25:04 stretch without scoring against EWU’s various defensive schemes. “I’ve shot that same shot my whole career. It looked good, it felt good, but it wasn’t.”
“We fight for each other,” said MSU senior forward Sam Neumann. “We didn’t throw in the towel. We knew we need to come back and that’s what we did.”
Hall finished with 20 points in his final game, ending his career with 2,518 points. Blevins had a team-high 27, making six of the Bobcats' season-high-tying 16 3-pointers.
Hall finished his Montana State career with 2,518 points, which ranks 62nd in DI history. His 431 3-pointers are tied for ninth all-time.
It was the first-ever Big Sky tourney meeting between Montana State and Eastern Washington, and it was a tight contest through the first 30 minutes before the Eagles’ hot shooting gave them some separation.
Benzel hit a 3 and was fouled by Hall at the 12:54 mark of the second half. Benzel’s free throw was good, which gave EWU a six-point lead.
The Bobcats cut the Eagles’ advantage to one at 11:31 after Russell Daniels made a corner 3, but Benzel hit two more from beyond the arc on consecutive possessions to make it a seven-point game, and Tyler Kidd added a jumper to give EWU a 71-62 lead.
The Eagles’ Kim Aiken then added another 3 to make it a 12-point lead, 74-62, with 8:19 to go.
More than anything, though, was EWU’s ability to dominate the Bobcats on the boards. The Eagles outrebounded MSU 34-25 and corralled 13 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points.
“That was everything,” said Bobcats coach Brian Fish. “We hit 16 3s. You hit 16 3s, that’s really good and you should be able to pull it out. We went to the line and made 18 of 20 from the line. We just didn’t get the rebounds tonight.
“With this group that’s been the tell-tale sign, when we rebound and win that battle. It sets a tone. We just didn’t get it done.”
The first half was a back-and-forth battle that featured nine lead changes. The Bobcats held the advantage on the perimeter with Hall and Blevins combining to make six of MSU’s seven 3-pointers.
MSU’s Blevins had a much better start against the Eagles than he did in a tight first-round victory over Idaho on Wednesday. Blevins had a team-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 15 minutes of floor time.
Hall had 12 in the first half on the strength of three early 3s, but he didn’t score in the final 13:36 of the half.
The Eagles outrebounded Montana State 18-11 in the opening 20 minutes and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points. EWU’s Peatling went into intermission with 19 points and eight rebounds. Seven of Peatling’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
The Eagles scored 22 points in the paint in the opening half and took a 45-44 lead at the break after Perry hit a 3 in transition with seven seconds left. EWU finished with 34 points in the paint.
Peatling’s performance helped mitigate the loss of EWU guard Jacob Davison, who is out with an injured left ankle. Davison combined to score 47 points in two regular-season meetings against the Bobcats.
Eastern Washington improved to 15-17 and advanced to play Southern Utah in Friday’s semifinal round. Montana State ended its season also with a 15-17 mark.
“I’ve had a tremendously fun time,” Fish said. “I’m totally indebted to these guys.”