BOZEMAN — The first shot Tyler Hall ever made in front of the Montana State faithful at Worthington Arena was a jumper in the first half of a game against San Jose State on Nov. 20, 2015.
He finished with 16 points that night in what was a comfortable victory. You couldn’t have predicted then that Hall would go on to shatter MSU’s career scoring record, not to mention become the all-time leading point-getter in the Big Sky Conference.
The last field goal Hall made on his home floor came Monday on Senior Night in typical form — a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:17 remaining that gave the Bobcats an eight-point lead and all but sealed a 90-83 victory over Southern Utah.
Hall, who is also the most prolific 3-point shooter in Big Sky history, had missed all seven of his first attempts from beyond the arc. But the one that mattered most went in.
Still, as he did two days earlier, Harald Frey made the biggest shots to propel MSU’s comeback from a nine-point deficit midway through the second half. Frey at one point scored 12 straight points, finishing that run with a tough three-point play in the lane to tie the game 60-60 with 10:35 to go.
MSU trailed by nine with 12 minutes left but scored 39 points from then on to run away with the win, combating the emotions of sending off their four seniors — Hall, Keljin Blevins, Sam Neumann and Usman Haruna.
“Senior Night is always kind of a weird night, you know, like how you’re going to approach it,” Frey said afterward. “It can be difficult, and I thought it was for a little bit there.
“But as we kind of got into the flow, we came into halftime and made some adjustments and we said, ‘We’ve got to play harder, we’ve got to play better. We’re better than we’re playing right now.’”
Frey finished with a career-high 32 points, making five 3s and going 11 of 12 from the foul line while adding seven rebounds and six assists with zero turnovers. It was his fourth 30-point game of the season.
Frey continues to play at an elite level: In his past two games, Frey has 62 points with nine 3s, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and five steals.
“I just have fun out there with my guys. I don’t know college without some of these guys — Tyler, Sam, Keljin — I never been to college without them,” said Frey, a junior from Oslo, Norway.
“I came over here from halfway across the world, didn’t really know what I got myself into. They kind of took me in and they’ve been like brothers to me. It’s a lifelong friendship and I kind of want to send them out on the right note the way they deserve.”
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Livingston product Ladan Ricketts did his part, too, scoring a career-high 21 points with six 3-pointers. Hall’s shots weren’t falling for much of the night but he ended with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The victory evened MSU’s overall record at 14-14 and pulled it to 11-7 in the Big Sky. The Bobcats now find themselves alone in third place in the Big Sky — thanks to Idaho State’s 78-74 upset victory over Weber State on Monday.
But it didn’t come without a fight.
“They gave us a hell of a shot,” Fish said of Southern Utah. “We were able to withstand it there a little bit. I thought we were a little better defensively, obviously made some big shots. But having said all that, I just overall thought we were a scrappy group the last 15 minutes of that game.
“Ladan hit a couple big ones. I thought Harry was fantastic tonight. We survived.”
After the game, the team honored Hall, Neumann, Blevins and Haruna with an on-court ceremony. Each player received a framed jersey and a large ovation while their biographies were read over the public address system.
Coach Brian Fish took the microphone and conveyed a heartfelt thank you to the quartet. Fish noted the unexpected death of his 29-year-old daughter Caryssa, which occurred Feb. 8, and paid tribute to the way the seniors have helped the coach cope with the emotional turmoil.
“First of all, they’re fantastic people. They care about their teammates. Our locker room is fantastic,” Fish said in the postgame press conference. “They’re good people, and oh by the way they’re good players and they’re fun to coach. And they get so disappointed when they feel like they let me down. I’ve let them down more than they’ve let me down.
“Love them. Love them to death. But I love the entire roster. It’s been a fun group. We’ve certainly had some different pitches thrown at us this year, and they hopefully want to keep playing and keep grinding this thing out.”
The Bobcats have two games remaining in the regular season, both on the road this week at Sacramento State on Thursday and at Portland State on Saturday.
The Big Sky’s postseason tournament commences March 13 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.