(Editor’s note: Montana State Athletics release)
BOZEMAN — Montana State used a strong second half defensive effort to keep one of the nation’s top offensive teams in check, en route to a convincing 69-53 win over Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon in The Nest.
Montana State’s (8-6, 3-1) defense stymied the Big Sky’s top offensive team holding Sacramento State (4-7, 0-3) well below its season average of 78.8 points per game. MSU also held the nation’s eighth best rebounder, Kennedy Nicholas, to just three defensive caroms. Nicholas entered the game averaging over 12 boards per contest and ranked third in the country in offensive rebounds.
And, while the Bobcat defense was doing its part, Claire Lundberg and the MSU offense got going out-scoring the Hornets 40-21 in the second half.
“We had a great second half,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “I’m really proud of our effort, especially on the defensive end against a team that is extremely hard to defend. We won the glass, and I loved our mentality offensively. We did a great job sharing the ball.”
Montana State trailed 32-29 at intermission, but used a 22-point third quarter explosion to begin pulling away from Sacramento State. MSU shot 47.1 percent from the field in the third frame as Lundberg notched 11 points, including a pair of three-pointers.
Sacramento State closed to within four points early in the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats responded with a 12-0 run sparked by a pair of triples by Lundberg and freshman Kamden Hilborn. MSU held its double-digit lead down the stretch to post its first Big Sky road win of the season.
Lundberg finished with a game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers. Also in double-figures were Martha Kuderer 19 and Oliana Squires 13.
Kuderer had her biggest offensive output in nearly two months connecting on seven-of-13 from the field. Squires, who was held scoreless against Portland State on Thursday, nearly pulled off a triple double adding a team and career-high ten rebounds, while dishing out seven assists.
Montana State out-rebounded the league’s top squad under the glass 42-32. Aside from Squires’ effort, also chipping in under the boards were Blaire Braxton with seven, and Lundberg and Kuderer with six rebounds, apiece.
“I thought once we started attacking the press we started to get a lot in transition,” Binford said. “I thought our guard play was fantastic. We really took care of the basketball. We were solid over the course of the game and got contributions from everyone.”
Sacramento State was led by Hannah Friend with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Montana State will host Idaho on Thursday night in Worthington Arena.