(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
GREELEY, Colo. – There are no more undefeated teams in Big Sky Conference play after Montana State knocked off league-leading Northern Colorado 79-66 on Monday night in Bank of Colorado Arena.
Montana State (9-7, 4-2) had five players in double-figure scoring led by Tori Martell, who came off the bench to record a career-high 19 points, which included a five-of-eight effort from beyond the three-point arc. Also scoring in double-digits were Madeline Smith 16, Oliana Squires 14, Halle Wright 14 and Claire Lundberg 10.
MSU’s victory over Northern Colorado (10-5, 5-1) was its first in Greeley since defeating the Bears 68-55 on Jan. 16, 2014.
“I told the kids in the locker room before the game that the key was to win as a team,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We had tremendous balance and really did a nice job taking care of the ball, especially in the first half.”
MSU got out to a 22-18 lead after the opening 10-minutes as Lundberg and freshman Gabby Mocchi each posted six points. The Bobcats used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to break away from the Bears and take a 12-point cushion into intermission. Wright posted nine points in the second period to spark the Cats.
The Bobcats built its largest lead at 56-39 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter following a pair of Lundberg free throws. UNC responded with a 9-2 run to close out the frame and pulled to within ten points heading into the final quarter.
UNC’s Savannah Smith, the reigning Big Sky Conference MVP, connected on a three-pointer with 6:03 left to get the Bears to within 62-58. The Bobcats quickly responded with a 9-0 run over the next one-minute, 38-seconds to build a 71-58 advantage on a Martell layup. UNC would get no closer than eight points down the stretch as the Bobcats converted eight-of-eight from the line in the waning minutes to secure the win.
“I’m really proud of the aggressive effort we put forward,” Binford said. “We found ways to respond on both ends of the floor and our bench stepped-up big time. Northern Colorado is a very efficient team and we knew we needed to put points on the board as well as get stops at important moments in the game.
“It was nice to see Tori confident with her shot and I thought Madeline was really aggressive on the defensive end,” Binford added. “It was a great team win.”
The Bobcat bench out-scored Northern Colorado by a whopping 41-6 margin.
Montana State hit a season high 12 3-pointers shooting a season-best 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. Its 40-point first half outburst was its best since notching 43 points against Long Beach State on Nov. 30. In addition, the Bobcats dished out 19 assists, just one shy of its season-high of 20, also set against Long Beach State.
For the game, MSU shot 40.3 percent from the field and connected on an impressive 17-of-18 from the free throw line. UNC held a slim 43-42 advantage under the boards. The Bobcats were led under the glass by Smith with seven rebounds, while Wright and Lundberg each added five.
UNC was paced by Smith with 27 points and eight rebounds.
MSU will host Eastern Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Worthington Arena.