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MSU men beat Idaho State, head to Big Sky tournament semis for first time since 2009

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BOISE — The Montana State men’s basketball team is heading to the semifinals for the first time in a dozen years.

Xavier Bishop scored 22 points, Jubrile Belo scored 19 and Abdul Mohamed nearly had a double-double as the No. 5 Bobcats knocked off No. 4 Idaho State 71-63 in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament on Thursday afternoon in Boise.

The Bobcats improved to 12-9 overall.

The win propelled MSU into the semis for the first time since 2009 while giving second-year head coach Danny Sprinkle his first postseason win with the Bobcats. MSU will take on top-seeded Southern Utah on Friday at 5 p.m.

It will be the first time this season that the Bobcats and Thunderbirds meet after their regular-season games were called off. SUU held off No. 8 Northern Colorado 91-83 in an earlier quarterfinal game.

“It’s a great matchup but I didn’t take this job just to get to the semifinals,” Sprinkle told Pluto TV after the game. “We need to take that next step as a program.”

Mohamed had nine points and nine rebounds while Amin Adamu added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bobcats. MSU grabbed a 37-29 halftime lead and kept the Bengals (13-11) at arm’s length in the second half as both teams scored 34 points in that frame.

Tarik Cool scored a team-high 18 points for ISU, Brayden Parker added 12 and Austin Smellie had 11.

The Bobcats converted 19 of 46 field goals to the Bengals’ 18 of 58. Neither team found much success from beyond the arc, with MSU getting just one 3-pointer from Bishop and Idaho State hitting 3 of 19.

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