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Montana State gets first NCAA Tournament trip since '96

| March 15, 2022 7:00 AM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Xavier Bishop scored 19 points to help Montana State advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years as the Bobcats routed Northern Colorado 87-66 in the Big Sky Conference tournament championship game on Saturday night.

Top-seeded Montana State (27-7) collected its third Big Sky Conference tournament championship and advanced to its fourth NCAA Tournament (1951, 1986, 1996).

Bishop was 5 of 15 from the floor and made a pair of 3-pointers. Amin Adamu had 16 points and Nick Gazelas 15 for Montana State, which shot 52% from the floor. Tyler Patterson added 14 points and made four of the Bobcats' 10 3-pointers on 18 attempts. The Bobcats also blocked seven shots.

Daylen Kountz scored 20 points for third-seeded Northern Colorado (20-15). Dalton Knecht added 14 points, Kur Jongkuch had 12 and Bodie Hume 10.

Montana State opened on a 22-12 run and led 40-28 at the break. Patterson and Gazelas each had eights points and a pair of 3-pointers. The Bobcats made 15 of their 30 field goals and 6 of 12 from long range in the first half.

Kountz's dunk pulled the Bears to 44-34 with 17:37 to play, but they didn't get closer. Montana State had its biggest lead, 71-46, with 7:10 remaining.

Montana State, which also won the regular-season title, has won seven of its last eight games for the program's highest win total since collecting 36 in the 1928-29 season. The Bobcats have also appeared in consecutive conference tournament championship games for the first time.