MSU Billings women throttle Chico State, advance to second round of D-II West Regional

Kortney Nelson
Posted at 11:15 PM, Mar 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-16 10:11:58-04

(Editor's note: GNAC press release.)

AZUSA, Calif. — Montana State Billings cruised to the second round of the 2024 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships with an emphatic 86-55 victory over Chico State.

The No. 4 seeded Yellowjackets trounced the No. 5 seeded Wildcats in just the second-ever meeting between the two programs, leading by as many as 36 points in the fourth quarter and owning the lead for 91.1% of the game.

The Jackets’ tremendous offense shot 53.3% from the field, including 42.2% from 3-point range, and 73.3% from the free throw line en route to the win. It wasn’t just shooting where MSUB outplayed its opposition, as it pulled in 38 rebounds, including nine offensive boards, 12 more than the Wildcats could manage.

The Montana State Billings offense was led by 18 points from Kola Bad Bear as the D2CCA all-region forward shot 80% from the field. Bad Bear also picked up two assists, a rebound and a steal as one of several players running play up the middle for the multifaceted MSUB attack. The total team effort resulted in five Yellowjackets finishing with double-digit points while the Wildcats had just one.

The long-range game came into play early for MSUB as they picked up consecutive 3-pointers by Dyauni Boyce and Kortney Nelson to pick up the team’s first points of the night and open the game on a 6-2 run.

Despite Chico State making a surge back into contention and briefly taking the lead in the opening period, two early fouls for the Wildcats’ leading scorer Zhane Duckett forced her onto the bench quickly and allowed the ‘Jackets to open the offensive taps as they poured in 16 points over the final four minutes of the quarter.

That production and stiff defense gave the Yellowjackets a 27-19 after capping off the frame with a 13-2 run.

The second verse was largely the same as the first for the ‘Jackets offensively as they racked up 25 points, 12 of which came from beyond the 3-point arc. Danielle Zahn opened the period with her first of two 3-pointers on the night to set the tone and was followed shortly by a Shayla Montague trey from the top of the arc.

Zahn went on to the game as MSUB’s second-highest scorer with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists while Montague finished with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Along with the pure offense, defense continued to be an area of excellence for the ‘Jackets heading toward halftime with a 9-3 advantage in turnovers as they piled on 14 points off of those turnovers through 20 minutes to give the team a staggering 21-point lead at the half.

The second half was relatively clinical for the Yellowjackets even as they crept toward their season-high of 88 points. The pace of the game slowed considerably in the third quarter but even as Chico State looked like it might be pressuring MSUB, Duckett picked up her third foul, returning herself to the bench and allowing the ‘Jackets to get back to business.

By the end of the third period, Bad Bear, Montague and Boyce had all notched at least 10 points while Nelson was on triple double watch with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.

The final quarter was more quality dominance from the Yellowjackets as they didn’t allow the Wildcats to score until over three and a half minutes went by and opened the period on a crushing 20-4 run. By the end of the game, MSUB’s defensive effort arguably showed up in its offensive stats as it racked up 20 points off of turnovers while allowing just two by the Wildcats.

Nelson finished the night with 11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals to round out the Yellowjackets’ double-digit scoring quintet.

The victory was the first over Chico State in program history after one previous meeting in 2009 and improved Montana State Billings’ already record-winning season to 27-6 on the year. With the quarterfinal win in hand, the Yellowjackets will face host and No. 1 seed Azusa Pacific on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time.