(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Montana State University Billings played outstanding defense and received 16-points from freshman Shayla Montague in a 63-45 win over Central Washington Thursday night at Alterowitz Gymnasium in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's basketball game. The Yellowjackets pushed their home record to 6-0 on the season and extended their current regular season win streak to three.
"We practiced hard all week on defense because we knew we were going to be facing a difficult opponent tonight," Montague said. "When you play good defense, the offense usually comes with it."
The Yellowjackets played barricaded the Wildcats in the first quarter after allowing a quick seven points and held the high-powered Wildcats to 3-for-15 shooting for a 9-7 advantage. Montague provided a jump hook and four points to help MSUB maintain pressure.
"We got down 7-0 early but didn't panic," said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. "Our offense was just a bit off early and maybe we had a little too much adrenaline going then. However, we regrouped to go on our own 9-0 run to lead after the quarter which I thought was critical for us."
In the second quarter, Jeanann Lemelin smoothly converted a reverse layup midway through as the teams traded leads. The 'Jackets took a 7-0 run to their largest margin yet. Lemelin hurried a layup at the buzzer to put MSUB in front 29-23 at halftime.
The Yellowjacket offense heated up in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Collins and Emily St. John connected on 3-pointers to help MSUB to a 42-29 advantage compelling Central Washington to call timeout. Shayla Montague followed with her fourth three for a 56-31 MSUB lead heading into the fourth. The Wildcats outscored the 'Jackets 14-7 in the fourth quarter, but came up well short of a comeback bid. Coach Woodin removed the starters with one minute, 30 second remaining as the 'Jackets celebrated their most important win this season.
"I think our third quarter tonight was our best quarter of the season to date," said Woodin. "Our team defense was excellent and we moved the ball well on offense and hit seven threes."
Montague illuminated MSUB's offense with a season high 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including four 3-pointers on seven attempts. The freshman also grabbed four rebounds and had a pair of blocks in 27 total minutes off the bench. Senior starter Jeanann Lemelin posted a strong effort on both ends and finished with nine points (3-for-8), three steals, and four assists.
"We wanted to come out and make a statement in our first game of the New Year," Lemelin said. "Central Washington was the pre-season favorite to win the GNAC, and they deserve it, but we were up for the challenge tonight."
Hannah Collins quietly continued her double-digit scoring streak with 15 points (6-for-14) against CWU, including one steal and four rebounds. Collins has scored 10 or more points in six straight contests.
Despite the slow start, the Yellowjackets finished 24-for-58 from the field (41-percent) and made 11 long-range shots (41-percent). They led by as many as 25 points with four ticks left in the third quarter and scored 18 points off 19 Wildcat turnovers. MSUB narrowly out-rebounded CWU 37-34, though both teams pulled in nine on the offensive glass.
Kassidy Malcolm led Central Washington with 12 points (4-for-8) along with six rebounds. Alexis Pana reached 10 points scored with four boards. CWU struggled from beyond the arc and shot 4-for-16 (25-percent). Neither team faced significant foul trouble, though starting forward Taryn Shelley did make it to four personals, limiting her time to 17 minutes.
"I liked our rebounding on both ends and we created some points through our defense and on the offensive glass," Woodin said. "This was a total team victory tonight. NNU represents a big challenge for us on Saturday but we are excited to compete against them."
MSU Billings (7-5, 2-1 GNAC) have conference wins over Simon Fraser University and Central Washington with a loss to Western Washington University in between. The Yellowjackets held an opponent to 45-points or less for the second straight time. MSUB continues with a game against first place Northwest Nazarene University (8-3, 3-0 GNAC) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alterowitz Gymnasium. NNU comes in hoping to extend a six-game win streak.
Central Washington (7-5, 2-2 GNAC) has lost two straight conference games and is off until next Thursday, when they head north to face Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks.
THE BUZZ: Montague was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game…The Yellowjackets have not lost a regular season home game since February 28, 2019 against Western Washington (seven straight victories).
MSUB's men lost on the road to Western Oregon University in their opening Great Northwest Athletic Conference game of 2020, 88-76 on Thursday night.
The Yellowjackets (5-6, 0-3 GNAC) fell behind early and could never quite get back within striking distance as the Wolves (8-2, 2-2 GNAC) kept them at bay and led 40-33 heading into halftime.
Falling behind by as much as 18 with 6:16 left, MSUB fought hard to close the gap and brought the game to within nine with 1:16 left on a Zharon Richmond free throw. But much as they did all game, WOU matched MSUB and stemmed the Yellowjacket comeback tide to go onto the 88-76 win.
"I was proud of the way we competed but we needed to shoot the ball a little better," said head coach Mick Durham. "We need to take care of the ball as well but overall we are continuing to make good progress in our stretch of four GNAC road games."
For the 'Jackets, Brendan Howard scored a game high 28 points and added seven rebounds. Richmond was the only other Yellowjacket to reach double digit figures with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Dalven Brushier led WOU with 21 points and Darius Lubom finished with 19.
As a team, MSUB shot 43.9 from the field and 31.6 from three points range while WOU shot 45.2 percent and 26.9 percent. MSUB's bench outplayed WOU's 23-19 but the 'Jackets did commit 17 turnovers to WOU's 10 which led to 21 points off of turnovers for the Wolves.
The Wolves had 11 steals and nine assists while MSUB had four steals and 15 assists. WOU outscored MSUB in the paint 44-32.
Player of the Game: Richmond was named the St. Vincent Player of the Game for his double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
WHAT'S AHEAD: The Yellowjackets travel to Portland, Oregon to take on the Cavaliers of Concordia University Portland…Last season, MSUB and CU split games with both teams winning at home…Tip-off is slated for 3:00pm MST.