Monday, November 18, 2019 5:01 PM | CBN
First off, congrats to the Purple Aces of Evansville for knocking off #1 Kentucky in Rupp! A historic win for a program eagerly looking to become a mid-major force once again. Evansville is a really easy program to root for, especially if you know about the tragedy that struck in 1977. Congrats to Walter McCarty the Evansville native and former Kentucky Wildcat for upsetting the school where he won a National Championship in 1996. The Purple Aces simply outcoached, outworked, and outplayed Kentucky. Alas, despite taking down #1, I turned away from the obvious and went a different route for my Mid-Major team of the week...Written By - Liam Blutman @Blutman27
This week my Mid-Major team to highlight is actually Montana State. I’ve been very impressed with this Bobcats team thus far. They were picked to finish 7th in the Big Sky but I can tell you right now, through two weeks this is the most impressive team I’ve seen from that conference. I was downright shocked to see Montana State hanging with a very good Utah State team for 40 minutes on opening night. It’s a game they lost 81-73 but it’s a valiant performance against a stellar team and a great learning experience. Harald Frey the senior from Norway scored a cool 34 in the loss, shooting 10-20 FG and 6-10 from three. The Norseman added 6 rebounds and 5 assists. I was curious to see what was next for Montana State, following a cakewalk vs a non D1 school and it was a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina. I was pleased to see they were participating in the Spartan Invitational and had the opportunity to square off with UNCG. UNCG is a very good team from the SoCon, a team I believe should’ve made the tourney last year and a team I believe will make it this year. (SoCon likely will deserve two bids to the dance this year too!) The schools in this round robin tournament were the host UNCG, Appalachian State, Tennessee Tech, and Montana State. The first thing that stands out is the travel is far worse for Montana State and that’s a slight disadvantage. The Bobcats had to play three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, that long plane ride to get here followed by having to play three games in three days... that’s really tough. In game one Harald Frey scored 16 on 6-11 FG and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists to lift his school to a gritty 59-56 win over App State. The next day was the showdown with UNCG. This game was electric from start to finish and indeed a finish which will never be forgotten in Bozeman, Montana. Each teams biggest lead was 9, both were erased. With 3:19 to go, UNCG leads 64-58. Jubrile Belo slammed home two jams and Harald Frey sunk two free throws with 52 seconds to go. The 6 point deficit was now erased, Montana State was playing outstanding defense, UNCG could not buy a bucket in the final 3 minutes of this game. Frey played all 40 minutes of this game, was 3-10 from the field, he corralled 7 rebounds, dished 7 dimes, and scored 14. You could tell that the lengthy travel and playing an elite Mid-Major off the second of a back to back was hurting Montana State and their star Frey. Yet, somehow this resilient team found themselves in this game with under a minute to go, a tie game in Greensboro. After a UNCG missed three with 40 seconds to go, Montana State had their layup blocked by a stud paint protecter, James Dickey. UNCG ball with 11 seconds to go. Enter, Isaiah Miller. Isaiah is the best player on UNCG, a good passer who gets buckets, and plays stupendous defense. Miller drove to the rack with time winding down and nailed a tough contested layup. 66-64 UNCG. 3.5 seconds to go, ball is inbounded to Frey. The lefty takes three dribbles and fires from halfcourt over a double team. The crowd loud, the ball in air, the chances of a halfcourt shot are minuscule... there’s no way. It was kind of like Gordon Hayward’s heave for Butler in the National Championship against Duke. Hayward took four dribbles and heaved his shot directly at halfcourt, a shot that would hit the backboard and nearly bank in, almost the greatest shot of all time on the biggest stage this game has. Frey’s was different, the magnitude of the game was smaller, less eyes were on it, it’s essentially a road game and Frey’s bank shot halfcourt heave was money. Straight cash homie! The crowd quickly went silent and all that could be heard were the screams of the Montana State team and a few fans. Magic. Pure jubilation cause what’s better than college hoops? 67-66, Montana State. Following the upset win, a Sunday bout with Tennessee Tech was on the table. Now, Tennessee Tech is not very good at all. Against UNCG on Friday they actually totaled for the least points ever scored by a D1 team, 30 points. On Saturday they managed to score a tournament high 47. The Bobcats really just coasted in this game and made the necessary runs to put this game out of reach against an offense that simply wasn’t capable of putting the ball in the basket. It’s your third game in three days, there are dead legs and tired players everywhere. A 52-39 win was perfectly acceptable. And that low scoring win would cement Montana State as the 2019 Spartan Invitational Champs! A strong weekend performance, this is a team to look out for. I’m excited to see what this team does in the Big Sky and I really hope they can win this league and the conference tournament. Montana State has not made the NCAA Tournament since 1996! The last regular season conference championship was way back in 2002. It’s been a really long time since Montana State has done some damage, this is the year things change.
Congrats to Anthony Lamb on being week two’s player of the week! Lamb led Vermont to wins over Boston and St. John’s. Any diehard college basketball fan knows about Lamb as he’s been at Vermont since 2016 and been a goon ever since. Lamb totaled for 15 points and 16 boards in their 62-47 win over Boston. He even added 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. A dominant performance from the undersized big man. In a road test against St. John’s, Lamb played 37 minutes, scored 23, corralled 13 boards, and cashed out on a game-winning fade-away J over two Johnnies defenders. Lamb shot 10-26 from the field, got 5 assists, and got two blocks. The 6’6” senior from Rochester, New York continues to lead Vermont year after year. This year is no different, the final year of Lamb being at Vermont. Things will be weird when he departs... Here’s to hoping Lamb can make his third NCAA Tournament whilst at Vermont this season. Would be a fitting end to a historic career as a Catamount!
Mid-Major Team of the WeeksWeek 1 - ColgateWeek 2 - Montana State
Mid-Major Player of the Week Week 1 - Jordan Roland - NortheasternWeek 2 - Anthony Lamb - Vermont