POCATELLO — At halftime, Idaho State had a two-point lead and Montana State's Harald Frey had five points.
By the final buzzer, MSU had an eight-point win, and Frey rose to a team-high 21 points.
Frey's second-half surge pushed the Bobcats to an 84-76 win Thursday at Reed Gym — the team's fourth consecutive victory and second this season against ISU. Frey combined with Keljin Blevins, Ladan Ricketts and Tyler Hall to give MSU (12-12, 9-5 Big Sky Conference) four players with 17 or more points, as the team buried 13 3-pointers and assisted on 16 of 29 baskets.
“Montana State has got a really good team,” Bengals coach Bill Evans said. “They came out and played really, really well.”
Frey scored seven consecutive MSU points midway through the second half to keep ISU's lead at three points or lower and poured in seven straight points again down the stretch, pushing the Bobcats' lead to nine points — their biggest advantage all game.
The 6-foot-1 junior from Norway made six 3s en route to a season-high-tying 31 points in MSU's 104-84 win over ISU in January. Thursday, Frey did his damage with mid-range, left-handed leaners and went 8 for 15 from the floor.
“He took over in the second half,” Evans said.
Frey, Blevins (20 points) and Hall (17 points) combined to score 13 points during a 16-4 second-half Montana State run that flipped a three-point ISU lead into a nine-point lead for the Bobcats.
Idaho State (9-14, 5-9 Big Sky) earned a two-point halftime advantage thanks to making 11 of 19 2-point attempts and slicing MSU's defense for 20 points in the paint.
But the Bobcats eventually swapped their man-to-man defense for a zone scheme and stifled the Bengals in crunch time. ISU weathered a scoring drought of 3 minutes, 20 seconds while Montana State built its late lead.
ISU shot 51.9 percent for the game but attempted 54 shots to MSU's 63.
“We're struggling against the zone right now. We don't know where to attack,” Bengals guard Brandon Boyd said. “In the first half, we got any shot we wanted. The floor was really spread open; we knew we could attack them when they went man. But when they went to zone, we struggled that second half.”
ISU's largest lead of the game was seven points, which was reached once in the first half and once in the second. Montana State countered each time, with runs of 6-0 and 7-0.
The teams traded blows and matched runs throughout. The game featured 13 ties and 13 lead changes, with each squad leading for over 15 minutes. Montana State was in front for the final 7:24.
Idaho State held edges in shooting percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds and blocked shots. But MSU cashed 13 of 30 3-pointers and forced ISU into 13 turnovers. MSU only had seven.
“The biggest difference is we turned the ball over 13 times,” Evans said. “Turnovers were a big bugaboo again.”
Thursday was Montana State's second win this season when losing the rebounding battle — the first was against Idaho State — and third win this season when allowing its opponent to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor — one of the others was also against Idaho State.
The Bengals are now 7-4 this season when leading at halftime but have lost several games that were winnable late.
“Previous games, we would turn the ball over, we would miss rebounds, we would do stuff like that,” Boyd said of his team's struggles to finish games strong. “I think this game, we just weren't ready for the zone again. We just struggled. We were stagnant the second half.”
Boyd led ISU's offense with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Kelvin Jones notched a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double before fouling out. Gary Chivichyan made four treys and scored 14 points off the bench, and Alonzo Walker chipped in 12 points off the pine.
Idaho State hosts league-leading Montana on Saturday in Reed Gym. The Grizzlies have won eight consecutive games and have not lost to the Bengals since 2009.