BOZEMAN — December had been a tough month for Tyler Hall — until his breakout Thursday night in Montana State’s Big Sky Conference-opening victory at Southern Utah.
Hall was, well, much more Hall-like during the Bobcats’ 104-99 win. He scored a season-high 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting and tied a career-high with eight 3-pointers. Hall now has 266 career 3-point baskets, a Montana State record.
It was an emphatic return to form for the star junior in MSU’s first conference-opening victory in four years.
“Certainly, he played like the Tyler we know,” coach Brian Fish said Friday during a phone conversation from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Hall had previously suffered through the most listless five-game stretch of his career, as he averaged only 11.2 points — more than nine below his career mark — and shot just 29 percent from the floor.
A troublesome right ankle was the main culprit. Hall initially suffered the injury during a home victory on Nov. 15 against Montana Western when he leapt and landed on top of an opposing player’s foot. He sat out the following game at Louisiana Tech and was on the road to recovery when he aggravated the injury in a win at Milwaukee on Dec. 2.
Hall went scoreless for the first time and played only 11 minutes in MSU’s following game on Dec. 5, a loss at Central Michigan.
He also had games of six and eight points against Denver and Omaha, but those were chalked up to foul trouble and poor shooting, though Fish said the walking boot that Hall was forced to wear after the injury occurred made his Achilles tendon swell, which caused more undue pain.
If he could do it all over again, Fish would have shelved Hall completely after the Milwaukee game to allow the injury time to fully mend. Instead, the Bobcats chose to “manage” Hall’s affliction with treatment and limited practice time.
“I screwed up as a coach. I probably should have just shut him down for two weeks and let the ankle heal,” Fish said.
“As I’ve said before to other people, it was never just one thing with Tyler’s injury. It was 10 things at 10 percent each that were causing some problems, and we’ve been able to smooth it out and get him in the gym and get him some shots, get his confidence back, and hopefully that can continue to carry over.”
After Thursday, it’s apparent that Hall is back to where he needs to be both physically and mentally. The 36-point outburst marked Hall’s 13th career 30-point game and raised his season scoring average up to 18.7 points per game, fourth-best in the Big Sky.
But Hall wasn’t alone. Backcourt mate Harald Frey, MSU’s steady sophomore point guard, scored 30 points, which stands as a new career high. According to the Bobcats’ sports information office, it’s the first time since 1971 that two Montana State players reached the 30-point plateau in the same game.
Additionally, Devonte Klines and Joe Mvuezolo added 13 and 12 points, respectively, giving MSU’s guards a whopping 91-point output.
According to an athletic department release, the MSU’s 104 total points are its third-most in a Big Sky road game, and its most in a Big Sky opener.
Defensively, though they gave up 99 points, Fish said the Bobcats made plays when it counted.
“We’ve got to change a little bit of the narrative, and that started last night,” Fish said. “We’ve got to be a better defensive team, and I know we gave up 99, but I thought at the end of the day, on key possessions, we were really good on defense.
“It was the talk and the positioning. We had them on a pretty good pace there, and then they scored 20 points in four minutes. They hit five 3s, but they were deep 3s, and our zone gave that up. We can live with that a little bit. We put them on the line a little bit too much, but having said that I thought our defensive effort was really good.”
After the game, the Bobcats (8-6, 1-0 Big Sky) traveled 150 or so miles by bus from Cedar City, Utah, to the small town of Page, Arizona, where they stayed overnight. The team then traveled another 130 miles on Friday morning to Flagstaff, where it will play Northern Arizona on Saturday.
NAU (3-11, 0-1) is coming off an 87-69 loss to Montana on Thursday. Lumberjacks guard JoJo Anderson scored 31 points versus the Grizzlies.
“JoJo Anderson is another one of those guys that could play for anybody in the league,” Fish said. “Again, I’ll preach this to the high heavens: There’s a lot of really, really good players in this league, and JoJo Anderson is a guy that really jumps out at you quickly on film.”