(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(Editor’s Note: This is a release from MSU Billings)

BILLINGS – MSU Billings women’s basketball fell in a non-conference exhibition game to the University of Great Falls, 78-61, Saturday at Alterowitz.

A first quarter lead was too much for MSUB to overcome as the University of Great Falls posted an opening advantage of 23-12, including a 7-0 scoring drive that propelled the Argos out in front early. MSUB closed the gap several times to four points, but UGF was able to keep the Yellowjackets at bay with smart shot selection and rebounds on both sides of the court.

Stephanie McDonagh posted a game-high 26 points for UGF. Jenna Randich added 17 points and six rebounds. Kalani Ulufale shot 7-12 from the field for 15 points. Darah Huertas-Vining finished with a game-high eight assists.

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“I was impressed with Great Falls tonight,” MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin said. “I thought they played harder than us and they definitely earned the win tonight. We didn’t compete well on the glass and their dominance on the rebounds was definitely a factor along with the fact they outshot us from the 3-point line.”

Tiana Hanson led the ‘Jackets with 16 points. Rylee Kane had 10 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Taylor Cunningham added 10 points and five rebounds.

MSUB shot 37.5 percent in the game compared to 50.0 percent from UGF. The Argos outrebounded MSUB 36-25. The ‘Jackets had 10 steals they converted to 15 points.

UFG was 8-19 from long range as MSUB finished just 4-21 for 19.0 percent.

“We got down early and spent most of the game playing from behind,” Woodin continued. “I thought we finally got some momentum in the second quarter. However, after we cut their lead to six, they had finished the second quarter strong to get us down by 14, and that segment of the game really did hurt us.”

UGF opened with a hot start. The Argos used feeds to baseline cutters to draw out a 15-6 initial drive. The ‘Jackets countered with pressure defensive to earn back-to-back stops. MSUB’s Grace Weeks grabbed an interior pass and Kane finished at the other end with a layup. Huertas-Vining buried a 3-pointer to send the Argos ahead 20-10. At the end of the quarter, Cunningham fought for an offensive board, turning around to finish with a layup.

A steal and follow-up layup from Kane dropped the deficit down to six, 29-23 midway through the second quarter. Great Falls climbed to a 14-point, 39-25, lead on a 10-2 scoring run heading into half-time.

The Argos opened the second half with a basket to drive the lead up by 16 points. The Yellowjackets made their move to close to within four points. Hanson drove to the hoop twice in the opening minutes of the second half, converting for five points. Kane added to the scoring drive with a layup. Cunningham buried a long 3-point shot and Kane fed Taylor Edwards a long pass for a layup to drop the deficit to 41-37.

The Argos responded with an 18-6 run to draw the lead back up by 16, 59-43. Great Falls continued to climb the scoreboard in the back half, taking its largest lead of the game at 20 points on a layup from Brice Henning, 74-54, with five minutes left.

THE BUZZ: MSUB shot 9-13 from the free-throw line…Kane named the St. Vincent Healthcare Athlete of the Game…this was an exhibition game for both MSUB (3-6, 1-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) and the University of Great Falls (9-2, 0-2 Frontier).

UP NEXT: MSUB has one final game before the winter break. The Yellowjackets host rival Rocky Mountain College on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.