It looked like Southern Utah might notch its first Big Sky win, as the Thunderbirds went on a 12-1 second-half run to erase a 50-39 deficit and tie the game at 51-51, then took its first lead since the 4:57 mark of the first half when Hess hit a 3-pointer with 5:43 to go for a 54-53 advantage.
SUU went on to build a 60-57 lead after Jaren Jeffery blocked a shot and grabbed the rebound, then buried a 3-pointer with 3:16 to play.
That was the last basket the Thunderbirds would get in regulation, however, and MSU was able to come back and tie the game on a pair of Antonio Brown free throws with 55 seconds to play. Neither team was able to score down the stretch, as Antonio Davis lost the ball on a drive as time was running down in the half and Trey Kennedy missed a running jumper as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
Paul Egwuonwu hit one of two free throws to give the Bobcats a 63-62 lead with 3:20 to go in the extra session, then after Kennedy missed a 3-pointer on the SUU end Holm hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game, and undoubtedly the biggest, to stake MSU to a 66-62 lead.
The Thunderbirds pulled back within two on a pair of Hess free throws, but Davis scored inside, then added a pair of free throws after another SUU miss and the Thunderbirds were not able to get over them hump.
“A lot of credit goes to Montana state,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “They were able to battle back, they played extremely well down the stretch and we didn’t. They were able to hit some big shots and convert some free throws and we just didn’t.
“Unfortunately the difference in this game was our free throw shooting,” he noted. “We shot 47 percent (11-23, 8-17 in regulation) in an overtime game. If we hit one more free throw in regulation we don’t even go to overtime.”
“We’ve got to find a way to make winning plays when it really matters but we didn’t do that tonight,” he added. “We got off to a great start and we had a lot of players make contributions but we turned the ball over too much in the first half (eight) and didn’t hit free throws.”
Southern Utah got off to a fast start, taking an 12-6 lead on an A.J. Hess runner with 14:46 to go. The Thunderbirds held the four point lead at 19-15 after Casey Oliverson knocked down two free throws with 8:00 to go in the half, but the Bobcats closed the period on a 15-4 run. Flavien Davis and Stephan Holm each scored six points during the run, with Holm knocking down a 3-pointer to break a 23-23 tie, then burying another trey with four seconds to play to make it a 30-23 ballgame.
Casey Oliverson scored 13 points for Southern Utah while Kennedy and Parsons each finished with 12. Hess had a game-high eight rebounds and John Marshall pulled down a career-high seven, six in the first half. Davis finished with 18 for the Bobcats, while Egwuonwu had 12 and Marcus Colbert scored 11.
SUU dipped to 1-25, 0-17 in Big Sky play while MSU evened its record at 14-14 and moved to 9-8 in conference games.