Cal Poly was four points way from keeping its flawless home record in tact.
In its third contest in Mott Gym this season, junior forward Bobby Howard hit a jumper from the key with 1:46 remaining to give Montana State its first lead of the game and fuel a 76 – 72 win against the Mustangs.
It was Mustangs second consecutive loss that after the Mustangs fell to Wisconsin 90-42 last week.
Howard’s jumper gave Montana State (7-4), who scored the last seven points, a slim 73-72 lead and junior guard Erik Rush sunk three of four free throws in the final 35 seconds to seal the victory.
Senior guard Marquis Navarre posted 18 points, sinking six of eight field goals paired with four of five free throws, to lead Montana State. Freshman forward Branden Johnson added 16 points while senior guard Will Bynum scored 12 points.
Cal Poly (3-7) was led by sophomore center Will Donahue with 19 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. Junior guard Shawn Lewis contributed 16 points.
The Mustangs had the advantage early, but couldn’t score down the stretch.
Cal Poly led by nine points on three occasions in the first 12 minutes of the game and settled for a 35-33 advantage at the break after Montana State closed the half on a 10-5 run.
The Mustangs rebuilt their nine-point cushion at 48-39 early in the second half and held a 70-65 advantage with 4:17 to play on a layup and free throw by Donahue.
Howard’s jumper with 1:46 left fueled the Bobcats’ 11-2 run down the stretch in the first meeting between the two schools.
Cal Poly made 42.6 percent of its floor shots (26 of 61) while Montana State connected on 51 percent (25 of 49), including 57.7 percent in the second half (15 of 26).
The Mustangs outrebounded the Bobcats 38-28, including 14 offensive boards, led by Donahue’s 13-rebound showcase. Johnson and Navarre each had five rebounds for Montana State.
Cal Poly committed 14 turnovers while Montana State committed 12 .
Cal Poly returns to the hardwood Dec. 31 when they square off against Cal State Bakersfield in Rabobank Arena.