(MSUB Athletics release)
PORTLAND, Ore. – Gaining traction with its third consecutive win, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team fought for a 69-61 road victory over host Concordia University at LCEF Court Saturday night in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action.
The Yellowjackets backed up their 65-56 win over Western Oregon University on Thursday by out-pacing Concordia 39-31 in the second half Saturday, and finished the first half of the conference season in fourth place in the GNAC standings. The Yellowjackets are now 14-6 overall, and are 7-3 in conference play.
“I’m real proud of our team to go 2-0 this weekend on the road, as it has been two years since we have done that,” MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin said referring to the last time the ‘Jackets won both games of a GNAC road trip on Jan. 14-16, 2016 at CU and WOU. “I am very happy for our team. Tonight was just a gut check down the stretch, and our players responded with a hard fought victory.”
Senior Alisha Breen notched her ninth double-double of the year, leading the ‘Jackets with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Playing 40 minutes, Breen also had a career-high four blocked shots in the game while going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Rylee Kane had 15 points and four boards, while Grace Weeks came off the bench to contribute a dozen points and eight rebounds in 23 strong minutes.
MSUB owned the glass Saturday with a 46-36 edge in rebounding, marking the fourth time this season the squad had a double-figure margin on the boards. The Yellowjackets were relentless defensively, holding Concordia to 35.9 percent overall (23-for-64) and just 10.5 percent from 3-point range (2-for-19). “(Assistant coach) Jenny (Heringer) did a good job with our defensive preparation, and we kept them a little bit off-balance tonight,” Woodin said. “Rebounding was a key tonight, and to be plus-10 on them was a really important statistic. We also defended well from the 3-point line which was crucial.”
CU (11-7, 5-5 GNAC) was led by a 25-point performance from Danielle Hartzog, who shot 9-for-21 from the field. Bailey Cartwright – the lone player in the GNAC with more double-doubles than Breen – completed her 11th of the season with 14 points and 10 caroms for the visitors.
The ‘Jackets got off to a slow start in the game, and a 5-0 run gave CU an 11-4 lead and pushed Coach Woodin to call a timeout. “Concordia got off to a great start and got us down, and we had a hard time guarding Danielle Hartzog early,” said Woodin. “We made some adjustments as the first quarter progressed, and to come out leading despite our slow start felt pretty good.”
Weeks made a difference off the bench midway through the second quarter, drawing contact under the basket twice in the course of a minute and making all four free throws to give MSUB a 27-26 lead.
CU went 0-for-7 from long range in the opening half, but out-paced MSUB 17-15 in the second quarter to bring the score even at 30-30 at the break.
The second half started with an immediate momentum swing for MSUB, as Lexi Prevost notched a steal and converted a three-point play on the very first possession of the period. Prevost put on a clutch defensive performance, collecting a pair of blocks and a steal and constantly disrupting CU’s offense.
After a 35-35 deadlock early in the third quarter, the Yellowjackets led the rest of the game thanks to finishing the period strongly. A trey by Hannah Collins with 4:10 left in the third rattled off the rim and fell in, giving MSUB its first double-figure lead at 47-37. Kizzah Maltezo answered with CU’s first trey of the game, and the Cavaliers refused to give up entering the fourth quarter.
Another Maltezo three came with 6:53 left on the clock, and cut MSUB’s advantage to just three points at 54-51. Just as she did in Thursday’s win over WOU, Kane sparked a 7-0 run with an assist and a layup that upped the spread to 61-51. On a night where MSUB shot just 35.6 percent from the field overall (21-for-59), the visitors made three of their final five field goals and went 6-for-6 from the line over the final 58 seconds of play to secure the win.
“Over the last couple of minutes we had some good defensive possessions and made enough free throws to secure the lead,” Woodin said. “Rylee Kane did a great job of directing the offense tonight, and Alisha was great on the defensive glass. Grace played a nice all-around game for us.”
THE BUZZ: Breen was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 5-1 all-time against CU, and is 2-1 in games played in Portland…Kane moved to No. 7 in GNAC history in career starts, making her 108th on Saturday to match Danielle Dwello of Northwest Nazarene (2003-07) and pass MSUB’s Bobbi Knudsen (2010-14)…Breen moved into a tie for 10th place in MSUB history in career games played, after her 113th appearance on Saturday night…Prevost matched her career high with a pair of blocks…the 40-minute performance was Breen’s second of the year and the sixth of her career…Breen’s previous career-high in blocks was three, which she had achieved six different times.
COMING UP: The ‘Jackets return home for two more conference games next week at Alterowitz Gym. MSUB hosts Saint Martin’s University on Thursday at 7 p.m., and Seattle Pacific University on Saturday at 7 p.m. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics are available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.