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Tale of two halves as Montana State women drop regular-season opener to BYU

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Posted at 4:30 PM, Nov 07, 2023

(Editor's note: Montana State Athletics release.)

BOZEMAN — Montana State opened-up a 14-point lead early in the second quarter and held a seven-point cushion at intermission but couldn’t fend off BYU in the second half as the Cougars posted a 68-60 win over the Bobcats on Tuesday morning in front of 5,017 fans — mostly elementary aged kids for MSU's annual School Day game — at Worthington Arena.

“I really liked our effort and thought we played with a lot of heart,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford, who began her 19th season at the helm of the Bobcat program. “When we shoot well, we can be a very good team.”

Montana State jumped out to a 19-8 advantage in the first 10-minutes as freshman Issy Bunyan came off the bench, sparking the Bobcats with seven points, including a 3-pointer. MSU also showed its defensive prowess limiting BYU (1-0) to 25% percent from the field and five turnovers.

“We’re definitely further ahead on the defensive side of the ball,” Binford said.

MSU built its largest lead of the game at 22-8 just ten seconds into the second quarter on a Katelynn Limardo 3-pointer. BYU closed out the frame pulling within four-points with 42-seconds left, but Taylor Janssen’s triple with 16-seconds remaining gave the Bobcats a 32-25 lead at halftime.

The Bobcats shot 33.3% from the field in the first half, including a 4-of-8 showing from beyond the arc. They also connected on 10 of 12 from the foul line. Limardo led MSU with nine first half points.

The Cougars used a 9-0 run to open the second half as Kailey Woolston’s layup at the 5:33 mark evened the game at 34-34. BYU took its first lead of the quarter with 2:16 remaining on a pair of Amari Whiting free throw tosses. MSU held a one-point margin heading into the final 10-minutes following a 3 via Madison Hall.

Trailing 52-49 at the 9:40 mark of the final frame, BYU went on a 15-1 run over the course of next seven minutes taking a 64-53 lead following a pair of Lauren Gustin free throws with 2:37 remaining. The Bobcats would get no closer than eight points down the stretch.

“We had a lot of people go cold in the second half, and I think a little of that was from fatigue,” Binford said. "We started giving up the 3-ball and they iced our wings.”

Bunyan finished with a team-high 15 points, while Hall recorded 12, and Limardo 10.

For the game, the Bobcats shot 32.8% from the field, including just 18.8% (3 of 16) in the fourth period. MSU dished out 14 assists and committed 12 turnovers while forcing BYU into 22 turnovers.

MSU was led under the glass by Lexi Deden and Limardo with eight and six rebounds, respectively. Freshman point guard Natalie Picton received her first collegiate start and recorded five steals and three assists.

BYU, who begins its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference as a Power 5 program, had four players in double-digits led by Whiting with 18.

Montana State plays at Arizona State on Friday at 6 p.m.