(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS - Cracking a seven-game home winning streak, Northwest Nazarene University topped Montana State University Billings 80-48 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball Saturday night at Alterowitz Gymnasium. Marina Valles scored 21 points and had six rebounds to help the Nighthawks secure their seventh straight win and maintain a perfect 4-0 record in the conference.
“We just weren’t ready to play tonight and as the head coach, I take full responsibility for that,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “I felt good after the way we played Thursday but we knew we’d be up against another tough team in NNU. We didn’t handle their pressure early and got down. Offensively, we didn’t have much poise. We worked on those things in practice but just didn’t execute at all. I felt we were shell-shocked out there so I give Northwest Nazarene a lot of credit for coming out hot and targeting our game. Quite simply, they played well.”
The Nighthawks opened with a 13-0 run and created turnovers with a persistent full court press throughout the night. After outscoring MSUB 31-9 in the first 10 minutes, NNU continued to find lanes to the rim and led by as many as 33 with just under four minutes to play in the final quarter.
The Nighthawks shot 52.6-percent (30-for-57) from the field and cashed in 29 points on 25 ‘Jacket turnovers. Valles shot 8-for-8, including three from beyond the arc. Avery Albrecht was also effective with 14 points and four rebounds. Nicole Gall shot 6-for-8 for 13 points while McKenna Emerson led all players with five steals.
Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets managed just 14 field goals on 54 attempts (25-percent). Playing without starting point guard Hannah Collins (ankle) for the first time this season, MSUB never found its rhythm and frequently rotated players in an attempt to string scoring possessions together.
Jeanann Lemelin led the team with 12 points (3-for-8), though Addison Gardner (11 points, five rebounds) and Emma Blakely (two points, seven rebounds) also posted admirable efforts off the bench. Blakely played a season high 26 minutes while Gardner was in for 19 minutes.
“Addison works hard and has done a good job for us,” said Woodin. “She’s been consistent with her shot and continues to improve as a defender. Emma Blakely, who has played the least amount of minutes for our team this year, gave us a spark in the first half. She wasn’t tentative at all and played well tonight.”
The Yellowjackets played well in the third quarter and outscored the Nighthawks 20-14 over the 10-minute span to close within 14 points but NNU rebounded to close out MSUB 23-9 in the final stanza.
“I felt we battled after halftime and made some noise in the third quarter which was encouraging,” Woodin said. “We closed back to 14 points but then got down again and they beat us in most phases in the end. I was disappointed in how we played but it’s a long season. We have to regroup and get ready for another two challenging opponents next week.”
Contrary to Thursday night’s win over Central Washington University, both teams made frequent trips to the free throw line. The Nighthawks converted 14 of 19 attempts (73-percent) while the ‘Jackets made 16 of 21 free throws (76-percent). NNU scored 40 points in the paint compared to 18 for MSUB, thought rebounds favored the Yellowjackets slightly, 36-33.
THE BUZZ: Addison Gardner and Emma Blakely were together named St. Vincent Healthcare players of the game for the Yellowjackets. Gardner recorded a season high for points and Blakely had a season high for minutes Saturday night.
UP NEXT: The Yellowjackets (7-6, 2-2 GNAC) play Concordia University and Western Oregon next week in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Northwest Nazarene (9-3, 4-0 GNAC) remains in first place in the conference, undefeated along with Alaska Anchorage. The Nighthawks play University of Alaska and Alaska Anchorage on the road next week.