DILLON — The Montana Western women’s basketball team was predicted to be among the nation’s best entering the 2017-18 season. The Bulldogs began the season ranked in the top 25 before falling out at the beginning of Frontier Conference play. They are now back in those rankings and are playing their best basketball of the season.
The Lady Bulldogs beat the Lewis and Clark State Warriors for the first time in five years on Saturday night, extending the team’s win streak to a season-high seven games. Western had lost 11 straight games to L-C State before edging out a 60-57 victory.
Western is now 18-6 on the season, but it hasn’t been a cakewalk. Before this current streak, the Bulldogs were on a different streak, a three-game skid decided by an average of 14 points per game.
“I think, just offensively, we weren’t clicking and shots weren’t falling for us,” said guard Brianna King. “We were kind of struggling a little bit on defense, too.”
The team chemistry seemed to slip, too.
“We weren’t healthy. We just weren’t jelling well, really,” forward Britt Cooper said. “I think we finally got our feet underneath us and are starting to get going.”
Once ranked as high as No. 10 in the country, the Bulldogs currently sit at 24th in the latest NAIA rankings. Despite their positioning, they’re still one of the hottest teams in the country.
Like the team, King has surged, scoring 20 points per game during the streak. While she helps lift the Western offense, the defense continues to be a steady anchor for the team.
“The offense is going to come if you get stops, so we’ve been focusing on getting stops and keeping (the ball) out of the post,” King said.
The nation’s ninth-ranked defense is keeping the Bulldogs within a game of first place in the Frontier Conference, as the final stretch of the regular season approaches.
“We just need to keep playing strong defense — that’s what has been getting us our wins, and then keep passing the ball on the offensive end,” Cooper said. “I think we’re starting to jel really well. I think we’re getting everything figured out … so I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
The rest of the season begins on Feb. 8 at home against Montana State-Northern.