HELENA – Hannah Dean poured in 20 points and collected nine rebounds as No. 24 Carroll College upset 10th-ranked Montana Western 82-45 on Thursday. The Fighting Saints improved to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in Frontier Conference play.
Dean, the senior forward from Gardiner, overcame a slow first quarter to score 10 points in the second period as the Fighting Saints pushed their lead to 35-14 at halftime. Dean opened the quarter with an assist and two big blocks to spark Carroll.
“I knew I was open, they were sagging off of the high post on both me and (Michaela) Dowdy, so I knew I was open,” said Dean. “I missed my first few and got kind of frustrated, but my teammates and Coach (Rachelle) Sayers were telling me, ‘Keep shooting it. They’ll go eventually.’ I didn’t want to back off because I knew they weren’t guarding me, so I knew I had to keep taking them and eventually they started to fall.”
“We’ve talked a lot about how Hannah is a mismatch nightmare, and, I think, last year a lot of teams would sag off of her and didn’t really respect her perimeter shot. She wasn’t as confident as she is now, and she spent a ton of time this offseason developing,” said Sayers. “She missed a couple early, stayed with it and then made three straight. That really got her going.”
After a Brianna King field goal trimmed Carroll’s lead to 5-4 early in the first quarter, the Saints went on a 9-0 run and held an 18-8 advantage after the opening frame. Dean’s field goal with 2:59 to play in the half was part of a 15-0 run that put Carroll up for good. Dowdy chipped in with 15 points and Oona Harrington added 11 in the win.
Carroll held King, a multiple-time winner of the Frontier Conference player of the week honor, to 10 points and forced the UM Western standout to just 3-of-15 shooting. King also had three turnovers in the loss.
“I credit our kids’ aggressiveness. We knew she was a big-time player, a lot of the stuff they do revolves around her and we also knew we couldn’t play 40 minutes of man against her,” said Sayers. “We tried trapping her, we tried denying her the ball as much as we could, and I thought the zone really slowed her down. … We just stayed with it and I thought everybody was really aggressive.”
Thursday was partial revenge for Sayers and Carroll. The Saints dropped three games against the Bulldogs last season, two by a combined three points. But Carroll’s head coach said, despite the lopsided final score, the victory was far from easy.
“Obviously, (Thursday) was tough. You look at the score and it doesn’t seem like it was all that tough, but those kids had to work hard. Defensively, we had to work really hard to do what we did. We’re going to need a lot of contributions from our bench come Saturday (against Lewis-Clark State),” Sayers said.
Carroll welcomes last year’s NAIA national runner-up, LCSC, to the P.E. Center on Saturday evening. The Warriors, ranked No. 7 this week, fell at Rocky Mountain College, 62-54 Thursday evening.
“I’m not sure if I like them coming in off a loss. They’re not going to be too happy,” Sayers said. “Our kids are in a good place. They had a great preseason, I think they understand the quality of our competition and that they got better, and I think they’ll be ready. It is so fun to play at home. We haven’t played here a lot and we’ll have another good crowd. The kids just enjoy playing.”
“Them playing in the national championship last year, we know they’re going to be tough,” Dean added on LCSC. “They always have been. Their 2-3 zone is a killer for a lot of teams. I think this win (Thursday) will give us a good confidence boost. It would be awesome to knock off two top-10 teams in the same weekend.”
Carroll and LCSC tip off Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m.