It was RaeQuan Battle’s, “One shining moment.”
In the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball tournament on March 7 in Boise, Idaho, Battle’s Montana State Bobcats were tied with Weber State as time wound down in the second overtime. Montana State’s Darius Brown II drove into the lane, then lofted a lob pass toward the rim that Battle rose up to dunk with 1.6 seconds remaining, giving the Bobcats a 60-58 victory.
IT'S NOT A MSU GAME WITHOUT A RAEQUAN BATTLE ALLEY OOP! pic.twitter.com/yCgbvPrqIY
— Montana State Men’s Basketball (@MSUBobcatsMBB) March 8, 2023
It was the definitive moment in what was a star-turn run through the conference tournament by Battle, and as a result the Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate led Montana State to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
Battle takes his talents to the national stage Friday evening when Montana State faces Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and it was Battle’s Most Valuable Player performance in the Big Sky Tournament that propelled the Bobcats to this position.
“I won (the MVP award) with my team,” Battle said after Montana State’s 85-78 victory over Northern Arizona the following night in the championship game. “I didn’t do it by myself. This is with the team. I’m just happy I was able to win another ring and do it with my best friend here, Jubrile (Belo), and with my favorite coach of all time, coach (Danny Sprinkle). It just means more than words.”
Two more points in the blink of an eye 👀#GoCatsGo | @RaeQuanBattle pic.twitter.com/6M4hF9Q9kw
— Montana State Men’s Basketball (@MSUBobcatsMBB) March 9, 2023
The conference tournament MVP and NCAA Tournament berth are just the latest achievements in what’s been a breakout season for Battle. Battle, a 6-foot-5 junior guard who’s in his second season at Montana State after transferring from Washington, was coming off a season in which he averaged 8.5 points per game as a reserve. But he moved into the starting lineup this season and flourished, leading the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game while adding 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 3-pointers and shooting 46.7% from the field. He was recently named first-team all-conference.
But he was even better in the conference tournament. He scored 21 points and blocked three shots in second-seeded Montana State’s 84-73 victory over eighth-seeded Colorado State in the quarterfinals. He scored 17 points and drained three 3s to go along with his game-winning dunk — a play Sprinkle said Battle called — against third-seeded Weber State in the semis. Then he poured in 25 points, including three more 3s, in the title game against ninth-seeded Northern Arizona to help send the Bobcats to the NCAAs.
Still rollin'#GoCatsGo | @RaeQuanBattle pic.twitter.com/201eWA4xpx
— Montana State Men’s Basketball (@MSUBobcatsMBB) March 6, 2023
Montana State (25-9) was given the No. 14 seed in the East bracket and faces third-seeded Kansas State at 6:40 p.m. (Pacific Time) Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“It’s a feeling you can’t explain, especially when you started from the bottom,” Battle said about winning another conference title and advancing to March Madness. “When I committed here they hadn’t had a championship in 20-plus years, and now we just went back-to-back. This means more, more than anything I could ever believe in.”
Battle and the Bobcats are hoping they fare better at the NCAA Tournament than they did last year. Montana State was again a No. 14 seed last year, and the Bobcats were bounced 97-62 in the first round by No. 3 Texas Tech.
Battle scored nine points in 13 minutes in that game. Coming off his MVP performance in the Big Sky tournament, no doubt he’ll be a bigger factor this time around.
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