(Editor’s note: Montana State athletics release)
BOZEMAN — Montana State did what it needed down the stretch to post a 69-64 win over Southern Utah on Saturday afternoon in the Big Sky Conference opener for both squads.
Junior Oliana Squires sandwiched a layup and two free throws around freshman Kamden Hilborn’s drawn charge call to give Montana State (6-5, 1-0) just the room it needed in the final 25-seconds. Squires and senior Claire Lundberg combined for six-of-six from the line in the last 23-seconds to secure the victory.
“Southern Utah is a talented team and gave us a heck of a fourth quarter,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “I’m proud we were able to finish it off and hit the free throws down the stretch.”
MSU held a 30-25 advantage at intermission behind 12 points from Lundberg. The Cats built its largest lead of the contest at 43-27 as Martha Kuderer finished off a fastbreak with 5:47 left in the third stanza.
Southern Utah (3-7, 0-1) used a 25-11 run to close out the third and open the fourth to pull to within 51-50 with 6:27 remaining in the game. Back-to-back layups by Lundberg and Halle Wright gave MSU a five-point cushion and the Bobcats connected on ten-of-ten from the free throw line in the final two-minutes, 26-seconds to hold off the Thunderbirds.
“We didn’t take care of the ball really well in the fourth quarter, but at the same time we responded to it and got some big time stops,” Binford said. “Kamden’s (Hilborn) charge came at the right time. And, I thought our two freshmen at the point-guard position, Halle Wright and Kamden Hilborn, were fantastic and super steady for us for their first conference game.”
Lundberg led three Bobcats in double-figures with a game-high 16 points, while Kuderer and Squires finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Squires, who was hampered with foul trouble, posted 10 points in the final frame, including a six-of-six performance from the line.
“We were able to get the ball into the right people’s hands to shoot free throws,” Binford said. “You can feel pretty confident in Claire and Oliana. The last two minutes is really critical in conference play, and I thought in the last two minutes we were solid.”
For the game, Montana State shot 41.1 percent from the field and connected on 19-of-22 from the charity stripe. The Bobcats also held a 44-33 advantage under the boards. MSU was led under the glass by Lundberg with a season-high nine rebounds. Kuderer, Wright and Blaire Braxton added six rebounds each.
SUU was paced by Harley Hansen with 13 points, including three triples.
Montana State will host Northern Arizona on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Worthington Arena.