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Montana State falls short in NCAA Tournament, 77-65

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Great Osobor scored 12 for the Bobcats' in their first-round March Madness loss on Friday night. (Photo taken 2.18.23) PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

By Andrew Houghton SKYLINE SPORTS

GREENSBORO, N.C.—RaeQuan Battle, back straight as a plumb line, rose above Kansas State’s defense for another deadeye jumper.

A year after losing their first-round NCAA Tournament game 97-62 to Texas Tech, the Montana State Bobcats—and especially Battle—left a much stronger impression of themselves at the Big Dance.

Against another 3-seed from the Big 12, though, it wasn’t quite enough in a 77-65 loss to Kansas State at the Coliseum in Greensboro on Friday night.

Battle finished with 27 eye-catching points, catapulting off the floor like a space shuttle headed for orbit to get his jump shot away, but Kansas State answered every Montana State punch down the stretch of a second half in which the Bobcats closed to within single digits multiple times but never got closer than four points.

Darius Brown II drives against U. Montana on Feb. 18. In Friday’s loss to Kansas State., Brown II had 12 points and nine assists. He attempted a season-high seven 3-pointers, making only two. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

All-American point guard Markquis Nowell finished with 17 points, 14 assists and six rebounds for Kansas State, while Keyontae Johnson had 18.

It was Nowell who had the biggest responses for the Wildcats, hitting a deep 3 to answer one from Nick Gazelas midway through the second half and firing a selection of seeing-eye passes through Montana State’s increasingly desperate defense.

It took until there were under three minutes left for Kansas State to completely ice the game, when Nowell answered a Darius Brown II 3-pointer with a laser to Nae’Qwan Tomlin for a dunk to stretch the lead back out to 10 points. On Montana State’s ensuing possession, Brown lost the ball and intentionally fouled David N’Guessan on the fast break, leading to two points on the free throws and two more on the free possession to make it a 14-point game with 2:15 left.

Montana State opened the game in a two-big lineup with Jubrile Belo and Great Osobor both on the floor, and led 12-10 with 13:42 left in the first half after Battle’s 4-point play.

Kansas State never led by double digits in the first half, and took a 34-28 lead to the locker room.

Great Osobor added 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for Montana State.

Kansas State advanced to play No. 6 Kentucky on Sunday.

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