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Nighthawks edge MSU Billings, 78-74

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Posted at 5:57 AM, Mar 01, 2021

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Overcoming a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon at Alterowitz Gym, visiting Northwest Nazarene University rallied to hand the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team a 78-74 defeat.

“Both teams played really hard, and didn’t have a lot left in the tank,” Woodin said after Friday night’s fast-paced 79-62 win for the ‘Jackets. “They made a couple really nice plays at the end and we were just one short. I was really proud of our team for fighting today. It was a very physical game, and was well played on both sides. Both teams really wanted to win.”

With 36 seconds on the clock and the score tied at 71-71, McKenna Emerson produced a steal and a fast-break layup as she simultaneously gave her team the lead and thwarted the Yellowjackets’ chances of running a play to go ahead late.

Cariann Kunkel drained a dramatic 3-pointer from the wing to tie the score at 74-74 with 19 seconds left, and after a pair of foul shots by Jordan Pinson the Yellowjackets had one final chance for a shot. Skylar Patton let a three fly from the wing, but the would-be game-winning shot came up just short.

Taryn Shelley led all players with 21 points, making 7 of 13 field goals, while also grabbing five rebounds and adding three blocked shots. Kunkel finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Addison Gardner (11 points) and Shayla Montague (10 points) each also reached double figures. “Taryn really came alive,” Woodin commented on the third quarter. “We got the ball in to her and she really dominated some of the interior play. We needed that, and we were able to hit a couple big shots as well. We had them on the ropes, but we have to give them credit because they came right back.”

Erin Jenkins led the Nighthawks with 19 points, while Pinson finished with 17 including a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the foul line. Nyalam Thabach just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Emerson finished with 13 points and Teagan Thurman chipped in a dozen. NNU pulled its record back to 6-6 on the year with the victory.

MSUB (4-2) led 30-27 at halftime and used a Shelley-led third quarter to build the largest lead of the game for either team. With the ‘Jackets trailing 47-45 at the 2:40 mark in the third, Shelley scored the next 10 points as MSUB finished the quarter with all the momentum. Gardner knocked down a trey to start the fourth to make it a 57-47 lead, but MSUB’s offense stalled with just four points over the ensuing five minutes of game time.

NNU meanwhile used the cold stretch by the ‘Jackets to get back into the game, with Jenkins scoring seven quick points to help her team pull even at 62-62 with 4:18 to go. Neither team led by more than three points during a back-and-forth finish, and Jenkins iced the game with a pair of final free throws in the waning seconds.

The Yellowjackets shot a respectable 42.4 percent overall (25-for-59) and made 9 of 18 threes for the second straight game (50.0 percent). But a poor mark of 15-for-23 from the free-throw line (65.2 percent) proved to be costly in the narrow defeat.

NNU overcame another ice cold night from the arc – making just 2 of 18 threes (11.1 percent) – by improving their overall shooting at 42.4 percent (28-for-66) and taking advantage of free throws at 83.3 percent (20-for-24). NNU’s pressure defense also generated 24 MSUB giveaways, leading to 23 points off of turnovers.

Skylar Patton had a season highs of seven assists and four steals, while scoring seven points and playing 38 minutes. The Yellowjackets held a 33-29 advantage in rebounding, but were out-scored 50-32 on points in the paint.

THE BUZZ: Shelley was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game.

COMING UP: The teams will meet again next weekend, with two more games to close the 2020-21 season in Nampa, Idaho. Tipoff times are set for 7 p.m. on March 5 and 2 p.m. on March 6, with live video available online here [vimeo.com] and live statistics available online here [nnusports.com].

“We are excited to make the trip, and we definitely want to be ready for Friday against a good team there,” Woodin said on the upcoming road trip. “I think we are getting better. Even though we came out on the short end today, we definitely learned a lot and it will help us in the long run playing a good opponent in a close game.”