The Danny Sprinkle coaching era commenced with a game that was nearly an upset for the ages. Montana State entered the match as heavy underdogs for good reason. Utah State was picked to repeat as champions of the Mountain West Conference and are currently ranked 17 in the AP poll. The Aggies also returned senior guard Sam Merrill and sophomore center Neemias Queta, who were both selected for the preseason Wooden Award watch list for the best college basketball player in the country. Last season, the Cats lost in Worthington Arena by a score of 101-71. Despite MSU falling short 81-73 on Tuesday night, the game appeared evenly matched throughout, with Utah State’s largest lead being 8 points. The Cats were down 74-71 with just under one minute remaining before sophomore guard Brock Miller hit a three-pointer to seal the game for the Aggies.
Montana State had not beaten a ranked opponent since they joined the Big Sky Conference in 1963, and preseason all-conference senior guard Harald “Freynom” Frey almost willed them to victory. He poured in a game and career high 34 points, including six three-pointers, many of which were beyond NBA range. Frey dominated the entire game and appeared to be the best player on the floor. On top of the fantastic effort from Freynom, the defense consistently stifled Merrill and the rest of the Aggies. Sprinkle emphasized defensive fundamentals throughout the preseason, and the focus clearly translated to the game Tuesday night. The team’s great effort was summarized with Frey’s comment, “I thought we came out and competed our butts off. We competed for the whole 40 minutes.”
Although this is the first game of the season, it was a promising first step. This team has a clear leader in Frey, several fantastic athletes, and should bring great energy to every contest this year. It is time for fans to bring the passion felt on Saturdays to the games in Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. The first home game for the Cats is this upcoming Saturday, Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. versus Rocky Mountain College. In addition to the men’s team, the women’s team is prepped to have a great season, and this weekend is a great opportunity to watch a home game. They play on Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m and Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. against UC Davis and Carroll College respectively.