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MSU-Billings women rally for 1st victory of 2020-21 season

MSU Billings Yellowjackets logo
Posted at 11:42 PM, Jan 30, 2021

(Editor's note: MSU-Billings athletics release)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Overcoming a sluggish first quarter on Saturday afternoon at Alterowitz Gym, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team rallied to defeat visiting Lewis-Clark State College 77-69 for its first victory of the 2020-21 season.

After scoring just six points in the opening quarter and trailing by as many as 18 points early in the second quarter, the Yellowjackets (1-1) finished the game strong with a 30-point fourth quarter to split the weekend series with the Warriors.

“We were pumped,” junior guard Addison Gardner said after scoring a career-high 12 points. “Yesterday we were pretty upset that we lost, and we said today we were going to come out and win. We have worked hard the past two weeks with our conditioning, and I think that has really paid off.”

Taryn Shelley made 12 of 14 field goals and led all players with 27 points, while adding six rebounds, two assists, and a block before fouling out with just over three minutes to play. Cariann Kunkel finished with 11 points, seven assists, and four rebounds, and Danielle Zahn chipped in 10 points including the biggest shot of the afternoon. With 1:11 to go in the game and MSUB clinging to a one-point advantage, Zahn fired up a deep three from well beyond the arc that beat the
shot-clock buzzer and increased the Yellowjackets’ advantage to 73-69.
“She’s a competitor – that’s what I like about Dani,” head coach Kevin Woodin said about Zahn. “We didn’t draw it up for her to shoot from 35 feet, but she hit a big
shot and I was proud of her.”

LC State had been within a single point on three different occasions before Zahn’s clutch connection, which proved to be the final dagger that solidified the Yellowjackets’ first win. “It wasn’t a great start from us, although offensively we were getting some decent shots in the first quarter,” said Woodin. “I give my players all the credit for doing a nice job of just keeping after it, and we just chiseled away. The second half was just good basketball, and we played consistent throughout.”

Gardner was the key contributor from the arc with four made threes, as MSUB responded from Friday’s poor 3-for-18 mark with an improved 9-for-26 effort from long range on Saturday.

“Yesterday I was 1-for-5 so I really wanted to come in today and hit a couple threes,” Gardner said. “I think that really changed the momentum of the game and really helped get us going.”

LC State (7-4) was led by Jansen Edmiston and Kiara Burlage, who had 15 points apiece. Abbie Johnson chipped in a baker’s dozen and Abby Farmer matched Kunkel’s total with seven assists to lead the Warriors. After being outrebounded
by 17 in Friday’s win, LC State improved on the glass to hold a 34-33 advantage over the ‘Jackets. Heidi Sellmann led the team’s effort with eight boards.

Coming off a strong showing in her collegiate debut on Friday, Dyauni Boyce earned her first-ever start and did not disappoint in 26 strong minutes. She finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while committing zero turnovers.

Boyce’s ball security was a theme of improvement up and down the Yellowjacket lineup, as they limited their giveaways to just 10 after committing 18 turnovers in Friday’s defeat.

The most important of Shannon Reny’s 11 minutes came at the end of the game, when she stepped into a pressure situation after Shelley fouled out. Upon subbing in, Reny immediately converted a second chance scoring opportunity
with the first of two big rebounds she secured down the stretch.
“Shannon and Dyauni came in after Taryn fouled out and gave us a few really good minutes,” said Woodin. “That was good to see two inexperienced players come in and do their job.”

The Warriors had command of the game early on, as MSUB endured a scoring drought that lasted 6:31 over the end of the first quarter and into the second. The Yellowjackets’ failure to generate offense was directly correlated with Shelley
being forced to check out of the game after picking up two quick fouls early in the first quarter.

The Warriors meanwhile capitalized on the opportunity, making 6 of 8 shots the rest of the period to establish the 23-8 edge.

The ‘Jackets spent the rest of the half working their way back into the game, and narrowed the spread to a margin of 41-28 by halftime. After foul troubled forced Shelley to sit for much of the opening half, she started the third quarter with a
bang scoring five quick points and 11 of MSUB’s 19 during the period. Her final layup of the third brought MSUB even at 47-47.

Perhaps the defining run of the game came with 7:24 to go, when Skylar Patton, Kunkel, and Boyce connected on consecutive 3-pointers to give MSUB its largest advantage at 61-55. The ‘Jackets held the lead the rest of the game.
“We didn’t turn it over as much tonight, and I’m proud of our entire team,” Woodin said. “We had much better spacing and offensive flow.”

The ‘Jackets shot 43.8 percent overall (18-for-64), compared to a mark of 40.0 percent (24-for-60) by the Warriors.

Shelley’s big day helped MSUB out-score LC State 30-26 in the paint, and the Warriors had 11 total turnovers against the Yellowjackets’ 10.