(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS -- Overcoming a double-digit deficit on Wednesday evening at the Fortin Center, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team rallied to knock off crosstown rival Rocky Mountain College 70-68.
The Yellowjackets (2-1) trailed by as much as 29-19 late in the second quarter, before slowly climbing back into the game in the second half. Four Yellowjackets reached double figures in scoring in the game, and MSUB was able to overcome a poor night from 3-point range as it made just 3 of 17 treys (17.6 percent).
“It was a hard-fought victory tonight,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Rocky really came to play tonight. They got off to an early start and they were there all night. I was proud of our players for how they clawed back into the game. It was a good win.”
“Our defense got us back into the game,” said MSUB freshman guard Kortney Nelson, who had a key blocked shot in the final minute of play to help deny the Bears from tying the game. “We got stops, and on the offensive end we were making shots finally.”
Taryn Shelley posted a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Danielle Zahn contributed 13 points and five assists in 22 minutes on the floor. Cariann Kunkel just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Dyauni Boyce scored 10 points to go along with five boards.
The Bears (1-8), who led 29-24 at halftime, maintained their advantage until the final play of the third quarter when Shelley converted a layup on an assist from Zahn to tie the score at 46-46. Shelley made another layup two minutes into the fourth quarter, and Boyce followed with back-to-back buckets as MSUB went on a game-changing 6-0 run to take a 57-51 lead.
The game was far from over however, as leading scorer Dominique Stephens – who finished with 23 points – made three consecutive layups inside of three minutes to play. Camille Cunningham, who caused constant problems for MSUB throughout the night, followed by converting a three-point play as RMC pushed ahead 65-61 with 1:59 left on the clock.
The Yellowjacket defense buckled down after that, holding the Bears without any points until there were just 10 seconds left in the game. By then, Skylar Patton and Kunkel had combined to go 4-for-4 from the foul line and Shelley added a final layup to put the lead back into MSUB’s hands for good.
“I’m really happy with the special situations at the end,” Woodin said regarding the final two minutes of the game. “We work on those a lot, and I thought we executed them well. Anytime you find a way to win, especially in a close game on the road, you have to give your players credit."
“It just prepares us for any situation,” Nelson said regarding holding on for a close win. “We work on situations in practice, and we are just ready for the game. Tonight we were finally able to get control of the ball, and we made our free throws at the end.”
After shooting just 25.0 percent (9-for-36) in the opening 20 minutes of play, MSUB drastically improved its accuracy as it went 16-for-28 (57.1 percent) over the final two quarters. The Yellowjackets also held a 34-31 advantage in rebounding on the night, and were able to turn 19 RMC turnovers into 14 points.
“Defensively we had great possessions, especially in the second and third quarters,” Woodin said. “We were able to get the ball inside much more effectively in the second half to Taryn. Dani Zahn had a really good third quarter for us, hitting some shots and doing a great job as a floor leader.”
For RMC, Stephens added six rebounds to go with her 23 points, while Kacy Horton scored a dozen points and Cunningham finished with 11. The Bears shot a steady 45.9 percent (28-for-61) in the game but, like the Yellowjackets, struggled from the arc where they made just 5 of 21 shots (23.8 percent). Neither team capitalized on its trips to the free throw line, as MSUB shot 60.7 percent (17-for-28) and the Bears made a slightly better 63.6 percent (7-for-11).
Patton finished with seven points, three assists, two steals, and a pair of rebounds in 26 effective minutes off the bench, and Nelson added five points, three boards, a pair of assists, a block, and a steal to her stat line.
“We talked about in practice that we want to go 3-0 (this week), and first we have to start 1-0,” Nelson said. “This will give us a good boost.”
THE BUZZ: Zahn was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…Zahn was one off her career high in scoring of 14 points…the double-double was Shelley’s first of the season and the 19th of her MSUB career…MSUB was without 2019-20 starter Shayla Montague for a third straight game due to injury.
COMING UP: The ‘Jacket women hit the road this weekend for a pair of games at Lewis-Clark State College. After the teams split a pair of games in Billings at the beginning of the month, the rematch series will tip off on Friday night at 6 p.m. and a Saturday game at 2 p.m. will follow in Lewiston, Idaho. Live coverage for the games will be available online through www.msubsports.com.
MSU Billings men 73, Rocky Mountain College 56
Defending well and capitalizing offensively, MSUB's men picked up a 73-56 win over Rocky in exhibition play.
The Yellowjackets won their second straight exhibition contest, after defeating Yellowstone Christian College 92-84 on Saturday at home.
“I thought we set the tone early, and we were pretty solid defensively all night,” said MSUB head coach Mick Durham. “It’s really nice in the second half when you can get some separation. They battled back, but our defense was really solid. All the guys who played contributed defensively, and I thought we really wore them down.”
On a night where MSUB led from wire-to-wire, the key stretch came directly out of the halftime break with the ‘Jackets ahead 31-26. The Bears kept it to a two-possession game until the 15:10 mark in the second half, before Chrishon Dixon hit a floating jumper and Nicholas Sebastiao added a 3-pointer to open up a nine-point advantage. Carrington Wiggins followed with a jumper at the 12:29 mark to give MSUB a double-figure advantage, and the Bears never got the deficit below six points the rest of the night.
“It started in the locker room when coach told us it was all about the first four minutes,” Wiggins said regarding the team’s strong start to the second half. “We just executed our defensive schemes, and hit big shots down the stretch.”
Wiggins finished with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while adding three assists, a steal, and a blocked shot in 24 productive minutes. Junior Brendan Howard led all players with 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting, while adding five rebounds and a pair of assists. Dixon finished in double figures with 11 points and seven assists, and Brent Finn came alive to score 10 points while also chipping in a pair of rebounds.
“I was a little worried coming into the second half that we would see some zone, because obviously we haven’t seen that yet with this being our second game,” Durham said. “We finally broke them down and got them back into their man, but it was nice to get some reps against their zone.”
Nick Hart led RMC with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Maxim Stephens chipped in 13 points and Tayshawun Bradford finished with 10. The Bears shot 37.9 percent (22-for-58) overall in the game, and were cold from the arc at just 3-for-19 (15.8 percent).
The Yellowjackets started the game on the front foot, building a 14-6 advantage over the first four minutes of the night. The eight-point lead was MSUB’s largest of the first half however, as the Bears managed to stay close all the way into the final 15 minutes.
MSUB finished the game shooting 41.9 percent (26-for-62), including a mark of 7-for-21 from 3-point range (33.3 percent). The ‘Jackets were solid from the foul line at 14-for-17 (82.4 percent), and won despite being out-rebounded 37-34. MSUB protected the ball well with just seven turnovers in the game, while the Bears committed 13 turnovers that led to 14 MSUB points.
“It was a rivalry game, so we were already amped up,” said Wiggins. “We had to make sure we played good defense and team ball, and we got the victory.”
Emmanuel Ajanaku and Sebastiao provided a strong rebounding presence for the ‘Jackets, matching one another for the team lead with six rebounds on the night. Sam Elliott added four boards, two points, and an assist in 10 minutes off the bench, while Clarence Daniels and Jimmy Brown had three rebounds apiece.
“We still have a full year to develop, so it is all about gelling with the guys right now and playing hard,” said Wiggins after his second game as a Yellowjacket. “I am adjusting pretty well, and I’m still trying to get into the groove of things. It’s all about finishing strong, and if we play good defense then we should be a really good team going into next fall.”
THE BUZZ: Dixon was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game.
NEXT WEEK: The teams will have a rematch in seven days, when the Bears visit Alterowitz Gym on Feb. 17. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader with the Yellowjacket women. Live video will be available through the MSUB Sports YouTube channel.
“It will be another battle at our place,” Durham said about next week’s rematch. “It will be nice playing at home next Wednesday, but Rocky isn’t going to go away. It’s a rival game, and we’ll see if we can’t get it done again next Wednesday.”