BOZEMAN – Montana State coach Brian Fish doesn’t have to look far to find a priority for his Bobcats men’s basketball team when they host Sacramento State on Thursday.
“They outrebounded us by 10 last time,” Fish said of the Hornets’ 35-25 rebounding advantage when the teams played on Jan. 13 in Sacramento, California. “That’s an area where we’ll need to improve.”
The Bobcats look to get back on the winning track Thursday after two road losses last weekend. Montana State (12-12 overall, 5-6 in Big Sky play) carries a plus-1.4 rebounding advantage in conference play against a Hornets team that is minus-4.2 in rebounding margin on the season. But Sac State big men Justin Strings (7.4 rebounds a game) and Joshua Patton (5.0) provide matchup challenges.
Thursday’s venue might provide the Cats a boost. MSU outrebounds its opponents by three-and-a-half per game at home; it has a similar deficit on the road. Keljin Blevins leads the way, snaring 7.3 a game at home.
The Bobcats hope that Worthington Arena provides a little shooting feel-good, as well. MSU shoots 41 percent on the league season, 11th in the Big Sky, and Sacramento State allows league foes to shoot 47 percent. Montana State shoots 45 percent at home, 39 percent on the road.
Strings and Patton form the heart of Sacramento State’s offense. A senior, Strings scores 17.5 points a game, and does so in a dizzying array of ways. Patton chips in 10.3 points a game, mostly from inside, and Jordan Tolbert (38 three-pointers) and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa (33) pace from distance.
Both teams look to get healthy in Bozeman on Thursday. Sacramento State has lost four of five and seven of nine; MSU has dropped six of seven.