(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – A playoff-like atmosphere filled Alterowitz Gym on Saturday night, as the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team battled No. 1 Lubbock Christian University to the final possession in a 67-61 defeat at the Tip Off Classic at the Trailhead.
Shayla Montague hit a three with 31 seconds left in the game, bringing the Yellowjackets within a single possession down 64-61. The Chaparrals made their final three free-throw attempts of the night however, and held on to win their 37th consecutive game dating back to the 2019-20 season. “Tonight was a great environment for our team to play in,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “The crowd was really into it, and playing LCU at home was very special. They are a well-coached and powerhouse program, but I was really proud of our team’s effort tonight.”
The Yellowjackets (1-1) put the Chaps (2-0) on their heels at the outset of the game, racing to a 17-8 advantage in the opening quarter of play. LCU converted just three field goals in a quiet opening quarter, while the raucous crowd spurred MSUB to a 7-for-13 shooting performance in the opening 10 minutes.
Lubbock Christian responded with a 28-14 second quarter, reversing momentum and going into halftime with a 36-31 advantage. “I loved out first quarter,” said Woodin. “Offensively we were moving the ball and sharing it well and we had several great possessions on defense. In the second quarter Lubbock switched to zone and we didn’t respond as well. We settled too much from the perimeter and when we are missing shots we need to find other ways to score.”
MSUB made headway in the third quarter, matching the Chaps bucket-for-bucket and entering the fourth quarter down just 50-47. Taryn Shelley started the fourth quarter with a layup to cut the deficit to a single point, but the ‘Jackets couldn’t get over the hump as LCU managed to hold the lead the rest of the night.
After another jumper by Shelley made the score 54-51, LCU embarked on a 10-2 run over the next 3:30 that proved to be the defining stretch in the game. Ashton Duncan, who led all players with 22 points, had her third and final three during the LCU scoring push. Duncan finished with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals, while making 7 of 11 shots in her 37 minutes. Allie Schulte contributed 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Channing Cunyus scored a dozen and had three steals for the two-time reigning national champions.
Shelley finished with the 19th double-double of her MSUB career, scoring a team-best 14 points and adding 11 boards and two assists in her 30 minutes. Kortney Nelson scored a career-high 10 points – including six in MSUB’s big opening quarter – while hauling in four rebounds. Nelson was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor.
MSUB maintained a solid shooting line of 23-for-51 (45.1 percent) throughout the game, but hit from the arc at just 36.8 percent (7-for-19). The ‘Jackets made all eight of their free throws in the game, and out-rebounded the Chaps 29-25. MSUB committed 18 turnovers however, while LCU limited its giveaways to 13 en route to the win. Lubbock Christian shot 47.8 percent overall (22-for-46), including 36.8 percent from long range (7-for-19), and made 16 of 21 foul shots (76.2 percent).
“We played with a lot of heart tonight and battled back to the end,” Woodin said. “We were down double figures inside the final five minutes and got it to a one possession game but just fell a little short. It is great for our team to play tough competition early in our season, and I know it will benefit us down the road. It is important for our team to respond appropriately with a great effort tomorrow.”
Montague finished with eight points as did Danielle Zahn, while Cariann Kunkel had eight rebounds, six points, and four assists. Dyauni Boyce and Skylar Patton scored five points apiece off the bench for MSUB.