BOZEMAN — There's no doubt Montana has an impressive group of no-fear freshman with the potential to one day lead the Lady Griz back to the top of the Big Sky Conference.
But this was not their day.
Kola Bad Bear scored 23 points and fellow senior Darian White had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assist to lead Montana State to a 75-73 victory over rival Montana on Saturday at Worthington Arena. It was the Bobcats' fourth season sweep of the Lady Griz in the past five years, and was their 14th rivalry win in the past 17 meetings.
With the victory, Montana State improved its overall record to 19-8 and 12-3 and maintained its two-game lead atop the Big Sky standings as it chases the league's regular-season title.
Bad Bear, a Billings Senior alum, helped spur MSU's post dominance by scoring 23 points. The Cats scored 44 points in the paint, and Bad Bear made 9 of 11 shots from the floor.
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"I feel like she keeps getting better and better," Bobcats coach Tricia Binford said of Bad Bear. "She really facilitates our offense through her post play. She's impacting the game in every facet. On the interior our posts were very, very active. They had to fight hard, and (Bad Bear) was really good."
Still, Bad Bear's biggest shot came from beyond the arc. Midway through the fourth quarter, White whipped a one-handed pass from under the basket to Bad Bear waiting at the top of the arc, and Bad Bear drained a 3-pointer to give the Cats a 14-point lead.
But Montana, now 13-13 overall and 9-6 in the league, refused to go quietly. Led by freshmen Libby Stump and Mack Konig — who don't know they're not supposed to play this well this fast in this type of environment — the Lady Griz rallied down the stretch, paring MSU's lead to two points after Konig's second 3-pointer in three possessions.
Konig hit three 3s total and finished with 15 points. Stump had a team-high 20. The young duo helped will the Lady Griz to 33 fourth-quarter points. The Bobcats, however, showed their veteran savvy, as White and Bad Bear went 4 for 4 from the stripe in the final 11 seconds to finish it.
After Bad Bear made the lead insurmountable with three seconds left, White approached her at the line and said, "We got it."
"It just felt almost exhilarating," Bad Bear said. "I guess just knowing we had it at that moment, it just felt really good."
White, who has carved a place for herself among the greatest women's players in MSU history, was her typical self in every corner of the floor. Junior post Lexi Deden added 17 points for the Bobcats.
Stump had a look at an open layup with under a minute left, which would have cut MSU's lead to one point. She missed. That would made things very interesting at the end, considering Sammy Fatkin drained a half-court shot at the buzzer to make it a two-point final margin.
The Lady Griz stayed in the game and rallied late on the strength of their perimeter shooting. Montana hit 11 of 27 3s, with Stump, Haley Huard and Gina Marxen making two apiece.
It wasn't enough to combat the Bobcats tough interior presence, which coach Brian Holsinger acknowledged afterward.
"I want to give credit to (MSU). They're an experienced team and they killed us inside, and that's the game," Holsinger said. "We had our chances. The easiest shot that Libby Stump had was the shot she didn't make.
"She's a freshman. Three times she's been in a situation where she's had a game-winning shot or something. That's unusual for a freshman, but I'm super proud of her. Glad I've got her for three more (years)."
The Lady Griz are still seeking their first win in Bozeman since 2014.