(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Northern Arizona rallied from an eight-point third quarter deficit and withstood seven lead changes in the final period to post a 76-72 win over Montana State on Saturday afternoon, snapping MSU’s two-game win streak- its longest of the season.
Northern Arizona (10-17, 6-12) jumped out to an early nine-point advantage after the first ten minutes, before Montana State (14-13, 9-8) responded with an 18-6 run to open the second quarter. The Bobcats took its first lead of the period on a Martha Kuderer three-pointer at the 5:52 mark. MSU held a 34-28 lead at intermission.
Montana State’s second quarter surge was sparked by Kuderer and Madeline Smith with eight points, apiece.
NAU shot 50 percent from the field in the third stanza, while limiting MSU to 27.8 percent. The Lumberjacks evened the score at 47-all heading into the final frame.
The two teams traded punches in the last 10-minutes, but it was NAU that took control of the glass out-rebounding MSU 16-8. The Lumberjacks posted ten second-chance points in the period, while holding the Bobcats to two second-chance points.
A pair of Kuderer free throws with 5:11 left gave the Bobcats a 65-62 cushion. However, the Lumberjacks countered with an 8-2 run holding a 70-67 advantage with 1:50 remaining. MSU chipped the lead down to two points on two occasions in the waning moments, but a missed box-out on a missed free throw with 29-seconds left and a subsequent NAU layup five-seconds later gave the Lumberjacks the margin it needed to secure the win.
“Really, the story was second half rebounding,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We just didn’t get it done on the glass. We missed some key box-outs and gave up offensive rebounds at inopportune moments. We didn’t play well down the stretch and we also didn’t get it done at the free throw line, which is usually a strength. We need to turn the page and move on to Southern Utah.”
Northern Arizona out-rebounded Montana State 43-37, which included a 28-18 advantage in the second half. For the game, MSU shot 64.7 percent from the free throw line. The Bobcats entered the game hitting at a 75.8 percent clip at the stripe.
Kuderer led MSU with 16 points, while Oliana Squires 15, Tori Martell 11 and Smith 10 also reached double-figures. The Bobcats were led under the boards by Martell and Halle Wright with six rebounds, apiece.
NAU was paced by Jacey Bailey with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite the loss, the Bobcats remained in fifth place in the Big Sky Conference standings just a ½ game ahead of Eastern Washington and two games in front of Montana for the final first-round bye at the Big Sky Tournament, which begins March 11 in Boise, Idaho.
Montana State plays at Southern Utah on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in Cedar City.