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'Best is definitely yet to come': After heartbreaking loss in First Four, future is bright for Montana State

Eddie Turner III
Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 21, 2024

DAYTON, Ohio — Montana State had a magical run through the end of the regular season to the Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournament, but it came to halt in the First Four of the NCAA tournament.

The No. 16-seeded Bobcats lost in overtime, 88-81, to fellow 16 Grambling State on Wednesday night in the University of Dayton Arena.

"Part of the reason this team was able to stick to the process so well was we understand how percentages work, and we shot a lot of bullets last week, and, you know, the shots just didn’t fall (Wednesday) like some of those momentous second-half swings that we had last week in Boise," Bobcats coach Matt Logie said.

Redshirt senior guard Robert Ford III has been the soul of this team all season, and he wouldn’t let his team fold on Wednesday night. He repeatedly tied the game or took the lead with big shots in the second half.

His college career came to an end in Dayton, but his legacy as a Bobcat will live on.

"I was talking to the guys in the locker room. It’s hard to come back, a coach getting hired late, guys trying to put all the pieces together," Ford said after the loss. "But it’s props to our team getting it together, getting it under the belt right away.

"And for me, I mean, you know, I appreciate them for letting me come in and lead them. It’s tough, it really is. I’m proud of this team. You know, it’s not too many times you see a team with a first-year head coach go to the (conference) championship."

Ford entered the transfer portal last offseason but ultimately returned to Montana State.

This season, he led the team in scoring, rebounding and steals. He won Big Sky defensive player of the year, as well as the Big Sky tournament MVP.

"Rob chose us, and he wouldn’t let us fail," Logie said. "The perseverance that he built in our program through his example this year is something that is, again, going to be echoed for years and years to come."

The team now returns a large core next season, all familiar with the staff and the system.

And something even greater to play for — seniors Ford and forward John Olmsted.

"Their impact will last longer than they’re here," junior forward Brian Goracke said. "So, it’s just important to honor their legacy and carry it on and keep building, keep pushing ourselves and just remember that anything is really possible."

The Bobcats achieved their third-straight NCAA tournament appearance with last year's latest Division I hire in college basketball in Logie.

But, against all the odds, this team found a way to persevere.

"The best for this program is definitely yet to come, and, you know, now that we have a core group of guys that have a year under their belt with a new design and new systems in place, I think we have a tremendous opportunity to continue to get back here in the future," Logie said.