BOZEMAN – An ice-cold start Saturday afternoon at Worthington Arena hinted at a low-scoring game, as the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team was out-matched by host Montana State University in a 67-47 exhibition loss.
The Yellowjackets shot just 29.3 percent (17-for-58) in the game, while MSU hit at a clip of 49.1 percent (27-for-55). MSUB shot often from long range, with 41 percent of its shots coming from behind the arc. The ‘Jackets connected on just 25 percent of their 3-point attempts however, and made just 7 of 12 foul shots.
“We got off to a poor start today on both ends and shot poorly in the first quarter,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “A lot of our offensive woes were due to their defensive pressure, but I feel we missed several shots we should have made. I was proud of how we fought back from the early deficit, but we couldn’t sustain quite enough momentum.”
MSU’s Madeline Smith had a career-high 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead all players with a double-double, and Oliana Squires chipped in 11 points and a game-high six assists. The Bobcats improved to 3-2 on the season with the win, while the ‘Jackets remained 5-0 after the non-counting exhibition contest.
Alisha Breen just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Rachel Koehler had seven points and five boards off the bench.
MSUB got off to a slow start, hitting just one of its first 11 shots from the field as the ‘Cats built a 15-2 advantage.
Vanessa Stavish finally snapped the cold spell, drilling a three from the top of the arc. Koehler delivered a much-needed boost off the bench, with seven points and three rebounds in an eight-minute stint. MSUB finished the first quarter on a 7-2 run, and scored nine points in the first three minutes of the second to trim the deficit to just 20-17.
The ‘Jackets scored just six points the rest of the quarter however, as their shooting percentage fell to 27.6 (8-for-29) by the halftime break. Meanwhile, MSU led 36-23 after hitting at a clip of 53.8 percent (14-for-26) including 4-for-9 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
Smith had 13 points and six rebounds by halftime, as the ‘Cats dominated play under the basket.
MSUB went on a 5-0 run to close the third quarter, finishing the period down by 13 points. Carrying the momentum into the fourth, the ‘Jackets got within nine when Taylor Edwards drilled back-to-back threes from the wing on two passes from Breen. Laura Pranger answered with a trey and a stop on consecutive plays, helping the ‘Cats reestablish a double-figure lead up 58-42 with 6:20 to play.
The ‘Jackets couldn’t get back within striking distance, as MSU’s edge never dipped below 14 points the rest of the afternoon.
The ‘Cats out-rebounded the ‘Jackets 42-30 overall, and held an overwhelming 36-10 advantage in points in the paint.
“I appreciate MSU letting us play this game, and I believe it will help prepare us for our upcoming conference games,” Woodin said. “MSU is a very well-coached and talented team. We are looking forward to opening GNAC play this week at home.”
THE BUZZ: Koehler was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…the ‘Jackets haven’t played a counting game against the ‘Cats since the 1994-95 season, when MSUB lost 73-55 in Bozeman…MSU has won the last three exhibition games, with MSUB’s last exhibition win coming on Dec. 29, 2012 (57-54).
COMING UP: Great Northwest Athletic Conference play begins next week, as the ‘Jackets host a pair of league opponents at Alterowitz Gym. MSUB takes on Western Washington University at 7 p.m. Thursday and Simon Fraser University at 7 p.m. Saturday.