(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Pulling out a gutsy, come-from-behind victory on Pink Night Thursday at Alterowitz Gym, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team rallied to outlast Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Saint Martin’s University 52-50.
Taryn Shelley scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, as MSUB overcame a deficit that reached as high as 13 points to win for the sixth time in the last seven games. “I have a really good team that just keeps battling,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We battled and the run that we had at the end of the second quarter to pull within seven was really important. We found a way to win a close game and that’s what good teams do.”
Shelley completed her sixth double-double of the year and the 24th of her career, adding a game-high 13 rebounds on a night where MSUB crushed SMU 42-25 on the boards. The Yellowjackets found a way to win despite shooting just 35.6 percent (21-for-59), and claimed a victory for the first time in the Woodin era without a made 3-pointer as they went 0-for-12 from the arc. “We weren’t at our best, especially early tonight,” Woodin said. “Give Saint Martin’s credit – they played hard all night. Once we took the lead I thought we executed really well, and at the end we just had to get the ball in bounds and play some good defense.”
With the Yellowjackets trailing 46-42 early in the fourth quarter, a game-defining run fell into the hands of the team’s top scorer. Shelley made four straight buckets to key an 8-0 run, as MSUB pulled ahead 50-46 and never trailed again. The Saints were far from out of it – keeping the score within two possessions for the final five minutes – but the Yellowjackets managed the clock and protected the ball down the stretch. “It definitely wasn’t easy sitting out for six weeks, but being back feels so good and my team is doing so good,” said senior Addison Gardner, who played for the first time since Dec. 18 after missing eight games with an injury. “We talked about having passion and how passion is energy. In the fourth quarter we started flat, but we had confidence that we would win the game and that’s what we did.”
MSUB improved to 14-9 overall with the victory, and is now 8-3 in league games to sit in a tie for third place.
Gardner chipped in four points in her return to the court, while adding four assists, three rebounds, and a steal in 21 minutes off the bench. Cariann Kunkel finished with 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and was among four different Yellowjackets to grab at least four rebounds in the game.
Claire Dingus and Tierney DeDonatis led Saint Martin’s with 17 points apiece, while Rian Clear and Emily Nelson had seven points and six points, respectively. Chenoa Louie and Iternite Reed tied for the team high with six rebounds, but SMU committed 17 turnovers on the way to its fourth straight defeat. Saint Martin’s fell to 10-10 overall and is now 2-9 in conference play.
A jumper by Dingus at the 5:30 mark in the second quarter gave SMU a 22-12 advantage, as the Yellowjackets failed to gain much traction offensively early in the game. The visitors’ lead peaked at 29-16 with 3:13 to go before halftime, but a 6-0 run by the ‘Jackets helped keep the deficit manageable at 29-22 heading into the locker rooms.
MSUB, which missed last week’s games due to COVID-19 protocol, worked its way back into the mix with a 16-12 third quarter before overcoming the deficit late in the fourth. Gardner was entrusted with inbounding the ball in the two-point game in the fourth, and helped ensure the victory with clean passes that drew fouls by the Saints. “It was nice to have Addison back from her injury,” said Woodin. “I needed her to inbound the ball there in those last few seconds. She is a smart player and did a great job there. She helped us and sparked us, and all of our seniors did a good job.”
MSUB made 10 of 14 free throws (71.4 percent), and managed to offset 16 turnovers with 15 assists. “It’s a bummer those games were postponed, but we worked hard on fundamentals all week,” Gardner said regarding last week’s postponed contests. “We came into this week wanting to go 2-0, and now we have that first win.”