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MSU Billings' season ends with GNAC Tourney loss

Posted at 9:55 AM, Mar 06, 2020

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

SEATTLE – Using consistent inside shooting and superior rebounding, No. 3 seed Western Washington University proved too much to handle for No. 6 seed Montana State University Billings Thursday night as they fell 69-54 in the quarterfinals of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships at Brougham Pavilion on Seattle Pacific University campus.

Taryn Shelley marked her 12th double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds but the Vikings used a 6-0 run in the third quarter to extend their lead, then held MSUB off the scoreboard late. Gracie Casteneda led the Vikings with 13 points and Anna Schwecke (11 points) and Emma Duff (10 points) also scored double figures. MSUB shot 32.1-percent from the field and was out-rebounded 39-28.

“It was a physical, hard-fought game for both teams. Western Washington got off to a good start and we were forced to play catch up, but I did feel we settled in and stayed with 6-8 points through most of the first half. We cut it to four points even though we weren’t shooting the ball very well so I thought if we could start fast in the third quarter, we had a good chance. To Western’s credit, they played good defense against us throughout and both teams battled. We just struggled to make shots consistently. Taryn was effective inside but overall, we struggled from mid-range and the perimeter and in the end, it was the major factor of why we lost.”

The Yellowjackets (14-16, 9-11 GNAC) ended their 2019-20 run with a return to the championships after a one-year absence. Western Washington plays No. 2 seed Northwest Nazarene in the semifinals Friday.

Western Washington shot 45.6-percent (26-57) overall, including 16 of 23 (70-percent) free throws. Duff notched a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds. Avery Dystra also had five rebounds.

MSU Billings finished 17-for-53 (32-percent) from the floor and connected on just 3 of 16 attempts from beyond the arc, two by senior Jeanann Lemelin. The ‘Jackets made 17 of 23 (73-percnet) of free throws and both teams committed 17 turnovers.

FIRST HALF BREAKDOWN: Shayla Montague helped the Yellowjackets get on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer in the first minute of the first quarter, but Western Washington found the offensive glass early and often to nab a 12-5 advantage by the first media timeout. The ‘Jackets scored on two of their first seven possessions.

Shelley’s time on the floor was limited with two personal fouls in the first five minutes of the contest and fellow forward TyLee Manuel was charged with three first half fouls.

After 10 minutes, the ‘Jackets trailed 17-12 and shot 33-percent with four steals. MSUB caused nine turnovers to keep limit WWU’s offensive damage.

Duff (10 points) and Schwecke (nine points) lead the Vikings at the break and held MSUB shooting to 25-percent. The Yellowjackets kept the deficit under 10 by making 10 of 14 first half free throws. Lemelin found space on the outside and connected on both 3-point attempts. Collins connected on all four free throws and passed in three assists. The Vikings attempted only one 3-point shot through 20 minutes and MSUB went into the locker room six points shy 31-25.

SECOND HALF BREAKDOWN: A 10-2 run early in the third quarter helped the ‘Jackets back to a 4-point margin, but the Vikings countered with their own 6-0 run to go ahead 43-33 with 2:49 to play. Shelley converted a 3-point play after gathering Lemelin’s fast break missed layup and the ‘Jackets trailed 48-42 at the conclusion of the quarter.

The Vikings continued to get the basketball inside the paint in the fourth quarter. Lexie Bland scored on back-to-back layups and Gracie Casteneda picked off a pass from Collins to give WWU its largest lead of the second half 60-47 with 4:01 to play. The ‘Jackets came up with two more empty possessions and failed to shave the margin heading into the final two minutes. The ‘Jackets were then charged with a shot clock violation with 1:35 remaining in the game. Schwecke and Bland both fouled out late for WWU but the Vikings put the game out of reach before each of their exits.

“We got beat by a very good team tonight, so there is certainly nothing to hang our heads about,” Woodin said. “We just came up a bit short on execution, but I was proud of how we competed. Our three seniors were a pleasure to work with. I ask my seniors to embody a lot of leadership qualities on and off the court and be role models. They are all three class people and I’ve been fortunate to coach them for several years and they should be very proud of their careers.”

THE BUZZ: Taryn Shelley was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game.