BOZEMAN, Mont. — A potential game-winning shot in the key from Brian Goracke rolled off the rim at the buzzer and Montana State came up just short in overtime to Green Bay on Monday night, 54-53, at Worthington Arena.
Montana State (2-2) erased a seven-point deficit with 39 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, then created a chance to win in the final moments as a big defensive stop and steal from Robert Ford III gave the Bobcats the ball with 6.0 seconds left trailing by one.
Ford brought the ball down the court and passed ahead to Goracke, who drove from the left wing and shot as time expired, but the game-winner wouldn’t fall.
The Bobcats managed to remain within striking distance of Green Bay (2-2) despite a cold shooting night, going 17-for-62 from the floor (27.4%) and 7-for-35 from three (20.0%).
“We did do enough defensively to win, to hold a team to 54 you expect to win, especially in overtime,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We didn’t get shots to go down, and sometimes that’s the way the ball drops. I know our guys have put the work in to be good shooters, and we’ll bounce back.”
Ford III delivered a heroic performance in the loss, tying his career-high with 26 points and adding 13 rebounds and a career-high seven steals while playing all 45 minutes.
The redshirt senior was everywhere, causing havoc on defense with his seven steals and hitting big shot after big shot in crunch time. After recording 15 points and six rebounds in the opening half, the guard kept his foot on the gas and kept energy up despite never coming out of the game. Of his 13 rebounds, four came on the offensive end.
“He’s been demonstrating that from day one just with his passion, the intensity that he competes with, the urgency that he plays with,” Logie said of Ford. “He basically single-handedly willed us back into an opportunity to win tonight. We need a few more guys to follow that lead. We didn’t have enough guys play well tonight to deserve to win that game, and still when you look at it, we’re two layups away from being 4-0 with eight scholarship guys. We’re trying to figure things out on the fly right now, and I was really proud of the way Rob responded to the circumstances we were in today and giving us a chance to win.”
Montana State led by one at halftime, 24-23, with both teams struggling to put the ball in the hoop.
The Bobcats couldn’t quite find their shooting stroke out of the locker room, starting the second half 0-for-8 from the floor and 0-for-6 from three. MSU got their first points of the second half on a Sam Lecholat layup with 13:06 left to go, ending a nearly seven-minute drought.
Green Bay used that drought to stretch their lead to 14 points with a 44-30 advantage with 8:20 remaining, but a pair of huge triples from Goracke pushed momentum back to the Cat bench, cutting it to an eight-point game with 6:55 to go.
A signature Ford moment came with 5:17 left in the half and the Cats wavering—after Jed Miller missed a three from the wing, the guard soared in between three Phoenix players and grabbed the offensive board, retreating to the corner and knocking down a big three to get the crowd on their feet, cutting the deficit to five points at 46-41.
Green Bay led, 49-42 with under 40 seconds left, before Ford created another steal and coasted the other way for a layup. The next possesssion, Lecholat forced another steal and Ford hit a high-arcing three on the other end to make it 49-47 with 25 seconds to go.
Ford picked the pocket of yet another Green Bay player with twelve seconds left and drew a foul with 8.6 ticks on the clock, then calmly sank both free throws to tie the game and send things to overtime.
Ford’s 26 points matched the career-high 26 he scored last season against SAGU American Indian College, and his five threes were more than double his previous high as a Bobcat (two). His seven steals are tied for the third-most in Division I in a game this season.
Montana State forced 20 Green Bay turnovers while turning it over just eight times themselves, helping chip away at the second-half Phoenix lead with deflections and steals that led to extra possessions.
Goracke ended his night with 14 points and four rebounds, with 12 of those points coming in the second half and overtime. Lecholat chipped in six points and four rebounds.
Montana State will have a short turnaround, hosting UC Riverside on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+, with live radio play-by-play airing on the Bobcat Sports Radio Network. Tickets are available by visiting msubobcats.com/tickets.
The Highlanders will take on Green Bay on Tuesday evening in a neutral-site game at Worthington Arena at 7 p.m. Admission to that contest is free to the public.