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Strong second-half start fuels Montana State in rival win over Montana

Darian White
Posted at 4:57 PM, Jan 21, 2023

MISSOULA – In a game that saw 10 lead changes in the first half, Montana State (13-7, 6-2 Big Sky) opened the third quarter with a 22-4 run to fuel a one-sided second half that led to a nine-point win over rival Montana, 72-63.

"That was one of the most composed teams in Dahlberg that I've coached, and we've had a lot of good teams over the years," Bobcats head coach Tricia Binford reflected. "I felt like we responded every time, and we could not stop the three-ball today, but we were able to find ways of getting in the situation that we were."

The Bobcats' key to success Saturday was controlling the low blocks on both ends of the floor, outscoring Montana 44-14 inside the paint.

"Our posts really had a battle today trying to keep the ball out from getting in the interior in general," Binford explained. "[Montana] is very efficient. All their post-play is very efficient when they catch it down low, but I felt like we protected each other. We tried to keep it out of the paint and out of the post."

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With less than two minutes left in the first quarter, a Darian White jumper built Montana State their largest lead of the half with 10 points. However, in a span of one minute and nine seconds, Montana closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run to bring the game within two points, 18-16.

Montana's Dani Bartsch hit a short jumper to retake the lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the half, igniting a back-and-forth shootout that never saw a margin larger than three points.

Mack Konig paced the Grizzlies (8-11, 4-4) with 11 of her 12 first-half points scored in the second quarter. However, with the game tied at 35, Madison Jackson hit the go-ahead jumper for Montana State to hold a two-point lead at the half.

"In the first half, we realized the things we were giving up and the things we could do better," Bobcat senior point guard Darian White explained. "The coaches did a really good job of explaining to us that the threes we were giving up [and] the things that were hurting us on the defensive end, so just hearing that we focused on those things in the third quarter, and I feel like that really showed."

Montana State built its largest lead of the game with 7:44 remaining in regulation following a 3-pointer from Grace Beasley. Montana answered with a 9-2 run to bring the game within nine points, but Kola Bad Bear stole back the momentum on a low block and-1 with 1:45 remaining in regulation.

"We just didn’t come out playing the right way in the third quarter," Montana head coach Brian Holsinger said. "Ultimately that was the difference in the game."

White led the way with 22 points on nine-for-16 shooting, while also recording a team-high tie seven rebounds. Kola Bad Bear and Grace Beasley also posted double figures with 13 points each.

Montana true Freshmen Libby Stump (21 points) and Konig (20 points) finished with new career highs.

Both Montana and Montana State will host a two-game home series next week against Portland State and Sacramento State.