(MSU Billings release)
LACEY, Wash. – Bria Thames scored 17 points and helped Saint Martin’s University edge Montana State University Billings 58-51 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball at Marcus Pavilion Thursday night. The Yellowjackets struggled to score in the fourth quarter and committed 20 turnovers in the loss. Taryn Shelley notched her 11th double-double of the season with 10 points, 12 rebounds and Hannah Collins led the team with 16 points but it was not enough to push MSUB to the series sweep over the Saints.
“We started well tonight but overall we didn’t do enough to win,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Our ball protection was poor and 20 turnovers was far too many. We also didn’t shoot or pass well today. We have another important game Saturday and I believe our team will respond and play better.”
MSU Billings (13-13, 8-9) fell out of the sixth and final playoff position with three regular season games remaining. Saint Martin’s (13-11, 9-9) moved a half-game ahead of MSUB but the ‘Jackets can even their record Saturday at Seattle Pacific University with a win.
The Yellowjackets began the contest with 7-0 spurt. Senior Taylor Cunningham netted a 3-pointer as the teams headed to the first media timeout of the first quarter. The Saints quickly countered on offense and a wide array of SMU shooters made baskets to retake control 14-13. Taryn Shelley swatted a block and Lemelin scored on the ensuing fast break but the Saints extended their advantage to seven points by halftime 34-27. Sutterlict led all players with 10 first-half points and Collins led MSUB with nine. Both teams shot just over 40-percent in the first half, but the Saints caused 11 turnovers and committed only six to hurt the ‘Jackets. Both teams pulled in 16 rebounds.
In need of a resurgence, Collins kicked off the second half with a strong right-handed layup which rolled around the rim and in, but Sutterlict’s 3-point play on the opposite end of the floor kept MSUB from erasing a nine-point deficit halfway through the third quarter. Trailing 46-40 at the start of the final 10 minutes, the Yellowjackets struggled to gain traction inside the paint. GNAC leading scorer Bria Thames found her shooting stride and caused Woodin to call timeout with 7 minutes, 11 seconds remaining, staring down a 10-pt differential.
Defense on both ends prevailed after the timeout and the Saints maintained a near double-figure advantage down to the final two minutes of play. Lemelin fouled out with 1:31 remaining, further complicating MSUB’s effort. Back-to-back Yellowjacket baskets brought the score back to 54-49, but Tierney Dedonatis made a pair of critical free throws and the Saints contained a comeback try and kept the Yellowjackets out of reach of a tie. A pair of missed layups by Collins and more made free throws by the Saints wrapped up the win for the home team.
“Saint Martin’s is a very solid team so give them credit,” Woodin said. “Thames is much improved from a year ago and although we kept her off the offensive boards, she was still effective in the paint. I was proud of how our team fought to the end and we gave ourselves the opportunity to get it back to a one possession game but just fell short.”
The Yellowjackets shot 33.9-percent (20-for-59) overall and 23.5-percent (2-for-17) from 3-point range. In contrast, Lemelin scored eight three pointers by herself in the previous matchup between the teams. MSUB converted 28 points in the paint and received two points off the bench. The ‘Jackets largest lead was seven at the mid-point of the first quarter. They also scored 12 points on the fast break and out-rebounded SMU 43-29.
Thames paced SMU’s shooters after going 7-for-17 from the field. As a team, SMU shot 38.9-percent (21-for-54) and 30.8-percent (4-for-13) from long range. Sutterlict finished with 14 points and five rebounds. The Saints got the ball inside for 26 points in the paint. DeDonatis and Nelson also contributed eight points apiece off the bench.
THE BUZZ: Taryn Shelley was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game after notching her 11th double-double for MSUB…The Yellowjackets split the season series with Saint Martin’s 1-1. MSUB has three games remaining while SMU has two.