BOZEMAN — Tyler Hall wore a dispirited look Friday afternoon as his nagging ankle injury relegated him to observation and walk-through duty during Montana State basketball practice at Worthington Arena.
Hall has been fighting the injury to his right ankle since Nov. 15, when he landed awkwardly on the foot of a Montana Western player and fell to the floor in obvious pain.
Hall aggravated the ailment last week during a road win over Milwaukee, and then played only 11 minutes and went scoreless for the first time in his career two nights later in a loss at Central Michigan.
Hall, a junior, is just nine points away from reaching the 1,500-point plateau for his career with UC Santa Barbara set to visit MSU on Saturday, but Bobcats coach Brian Fish said Hall might not play as the training staff works to get him fully healed with an eight-day layoff through finals week beginning Sunday.
“We gave him a little bit of a run (against Central Michigan) be he just couldn’t respond,” Fish said Thursday. “The swelling, we’re having trouble getting it down.
“I’m not sure. It’ll be a game-time decision.”
Hall ranks second in the Big Sky Conference in scoring at 19.3 points per game, but the shutout he incurred against the CMU was the first of his career, and his 11 minutes were by far the fewest.
Discouraged, Hall took to social media after the game, tweeting: “I apologize to the game of basketball. It will never happen again.”
Fish said keeping Hall — who averages 20.7 points per game for his career — level-headed through the slow rehabilitation process has been challenging.
“He’s really frustrated because he’ll go through shootaround and he’ll be going good, and all of the sudden he’ll step wrong and it just locks and swells up,” Fish said. “He sits there against Milwaukee and he feels really, really good, he cuts through the lane, steps on a guy’s foot and everything goes back to Day 1.
“You’ve seen the Tyler we’ve seen for 70 games around here, and you see three or four games now where he hasn’t been able to move, and he’s just frustrated.
“He’s a shot-maker, and when he’s not making shots he doesn’t feel like he’s contributing to the team and then he doesn’t feel himself out there.”
UC Santa Barbara figures to be one of MSU’s toughest nonconference opponents, with or without Hall. The Gauchos (7-2) have won six in a row with notable victories over Montana, Omaha, North Dakota State and Pepperdine.
Guard Max Heidegger is the leading scorer in the Big West Conference at 23.9 points per game. Forward Leland King II, a graduate transfer from Nevada, averages 18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds, while guard Marcus Jackson, a dropdown from Rice, averages 9.0 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 40 percent from 3.
“Very impressed with them on film. They know what they want to do. They play really, really hard,” Fish said.
“They picked up two grad transfers that have come in and really helped them. The guard that averages 23 points a game (Heidegger) certainly is very aggressive, good at drawing fouls, good at getting the lane. They’re not 7-2 by accident. They’re a really good basketball team.”
The MSU/UC Santa Barbara game is the first half of a doubleheader that tips off at 2 p.m. The Bobcat women will host Stephen F. Austin at approximately 4:30.
Montana State (5-4) returns home following a trip through Hawaii in which it went 1-2. MSU will have 12 days off after the game, and won’t return to the court until Dec. 22 at BYU.
Stephen F. Austin, coming off a loss at Montana on Thursday, is coached by Mark Kellogg, who was an assistant at Montana State from 2001-05.
One of Kellogg’s assistant coaches is Rebecca Alvidrez, who was a two-time All-Big Sky selection for the Bobcats and was named the league’s newcomer of the year after the 2000-01 season.
The Lumberjacks had won six in a row before its 60-52 loss to the Lady Griz.