(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – The lowest shooting percentage of the season for the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team told the story Thursday night at Alterowitz Gym, as the Yellowjackets lost their second straight game at home 66-52 against Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Northwest Nazarene University.
MSUB (11-6, 4-3 GNAC) scored no more than 16 points in any of the quarters, and made 16 of 57 shots (28.1 percent) including 4 of 24 from 3-point range (16.7 percent).
NNU (10-3, 6-2 GNAC) meanwhile made a shooting percentage of 35.6 from the field (21-for-59) work offensively, and the Nighthawks hit 6 of 13 threes in the victory. Lexi Tubbs had 18 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the arc, many times connecting at key moments late in the second half.
“This is a difficult loss, and we got beat by a team that played hard and wanted it more than us tonight,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We missed a lot of shots that we should have made, but give NNU all the credit as they deserved to win.”
Alisha Breen had a career-high 18 rebounds and matched her career best with three blocks, while adding 16 points for her seventh double-double of the season. Rylee Kane chipped in 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists, while junior Taylor Edwards had a season-best 11 points.
The ‘Jackets got off to a hot start at 5-0, but a corner three by NNU’s McKenna Walker tied the score at 9-9 midway through the first. The lead changed hands three times throughout the first 17 minutes of play, and the ‘Jackets had a chance for a turning point on a put-back layup by Breen as halftime neared. Jeanann Lemelin followed with a corner jumper to give MSUB a 24-23 edge, but the ‘Jackets went cold and scored just one point over the final four minutes of the first half.
MSUB cut into NNU’s 28-25 halftime lead and evened the score at 31-31 three minutes into the third quarter. The Hawks closed the period on an 11-5 scoring kick however, during which the ‘Jackets went 1-for-6 with three turnovers missing their chance to cut into the deficit.
A pair of free throws by Danielle Jardine provided NNU with its first double-figure lead of the game early in the fourth, and the visitors coasted downhill from there through the final buzzer. Jardine finished one rebound short of a double-double, with 16 points and nine boards in 21 minutes. Walker added 15 points and five rebounds, and NNU won the turnover battle at 17-16.
Five straight points by MSUB in the fourth got it to 51-44 with 7:14 to go, as Edwards knocked down one of her three 3-pointers on the night. Edwards hit another three with two minutes left, but Tubbs answered immediately with a trey that kept the spread at 10 points. “NNU out-executed us and out-hustled us in the second half, and ultimately that was the reason we lost,” Woodin said. “We played hard but made too many mistakes. If we had shot the ball better in the second half we could have come out on top, but unfortunately our poor shooting continued.”
The ‘Jackets narrowly out-rebounded the ‘Hawks 41-40, and scored 16 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds. MSUB made 16 of 22 free throws (72.7 percent), while NNU hit 18 of 25 (72.0 percent).
THE BUZZ: Edwards was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…Breen’s previous career high in rebounding was 17, which she achieved on two occasions…she matched Bailey Cartwright (Concordia) for the highest rebound total in the GNAC this season…Breen’s 18 rebounds were the most by an MSUB player since Janiel Olson reached 18 on Jan. 7, 2015 against Saint Martin’s…Breen has had three blocked shots in a game on six different occasions…MSUB’s previous low shooting percentage this year was 29.6 in a 58-56 win over Saint Martin’s…MSUB is 17-12 all-time against NNU and has a home record of 10-3 in the series…MSUB has won 11 of the last 16 meetings dating back to 2011.
COMING UP: Conference play continues Saturday evening against Central Washington University (8-7, 4-3 GNAC). Tipoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. in the opening game of a doubleheader with the MSUB men’s basketball team. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portaL.