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Montana State knocked out of NCAA tournament with first-round loss to Kansas State

NCAA Montana St Kansas St Basketball
NCAA Montana St Kansas St Basketball
Posted at 10:07 PM, Mar 17, 2023

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Montana State’s stay at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was again short-lived.

The 14th-seeded Bobcats got 27 points from RaeQuan Battle but weren’t able to keep pace with No. 3 seed Kansas State in a 77-65 first-round loss Friday night at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

Keyontae Johnson had 18 points and eight rebounds and Markquis Nowell added 17 points and 14 assists to lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA tourney victory since 2018. Kansas State, now 24-9, advanced to play No. 6 seed Kentucky in a second-round game on Sunday.

Montana State, which finished its season with a 25-10 record, was making its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Last year, the Bobcats were also a 14 seed and lost 97-62 to No. 3 Texas Tech in San Diego.

Against K-State, Battle made 9 of 17 field goals and hit three 3-pointers. Darius Brown II and Great Osobor both had 12 points. Brown dished out nine assists and Osobor had seven rebounds.

MSU big man Jubrile Belo had just five points and didn't attempt a field goal until nearly five minutes had passed in the second half. MSU was also uncharacteristically limit at the foul line and made just 9 of 17 free throws.

Kansas State led by as many as 16 in the second half. MSU trailed by 13 points with 6:52 remaining when the Wildcats' Desi Sills made a driving layup. The Bobcats pared their deficit to eight points on a 3-pointer from Brown with 2:47 left but got no closer.

"We just kept battling back and battling back and battling back," Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle stated in a press release. "We couldn't get over that hump tonight. I thought we had some decent looks from 3, but I give them credit. They guarded us well."

Of his 26-point effort, Battle was quoted: "I love to attack the defense, make sure I find the open gaps and make sure I can get to the hoop and find an open 3. I always trust what our game plan is from the coaches and go from there, and then I'll take what the defense gives me."

Last year, the Bobcats were also a 14 seed and lost 97-62 to No. 3 Texas Tech in San Diego. The Big Sky Conference is still seeking its first NCAA tournament victory since 2006 when 12th-seeded Montana beat No. 5 Nevada.