(MSU Billings release)
FAIRBANKS, Alas. – Alisha Breen broke the Great Northwest Athletic Conference career record for made free throws, and led all players with 23 points as the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team defeated University of Alaska 74-59 Saturday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Court in conference action.
MSUB put a stop to a two-game skid, moving to 16-8 overall and 9-5 in league play with the win to remain towards the top of the standings. The Nanooks fell to 4-16 with the loss, and are now 0-14 in conference play.
“We struggled early, and we came out flatter than I had hoped for,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We got into a rhythm in the second quarter, but didn’t end the half well. I was proud of our team for playing a strong second half, and once we got the lead we were able to extend it. Down the stretch we executed well on both ends.”
Breen went 4-for-5 from the foul line of the night, and broke the conference career record with her third make of the game. She finished the evening with 474 career free throws, surpassing Erin Chambers of Simon Fraser University who held the record with 472.
Breen also completed her 11th double-double of the year and the 18th of her career by adding a game-high 11 rebounds. On a night where the ‘Jackets out-paced the ‘Nooks 43-39 on the glass, Vanessa Stavish was also a key contributor as she had seven rebounds to go with 16 points.
“Vanessa and Alisha played very well together today, as they were both a threat at the 3-point line and passed the ball to one another effectively,” Woodin said on a duo that combined for six of MSUB’s 11 treys. “Rylee shot well and had some big baskets for us, especially in the second half. Taylor Edwards gave us a spark in the first half with a couple needed threes when we were struggling from the arc.”
Rylee Kane had 18 points and five boards, and Taylor Edwards came off the bench to deliver eight points in nine minutes.
The Nanooks were led by Kylie Wallace, who had 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 accuracy from the foul line. Emily Evans had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Josie Sewell was also in double figures with 10 points.
The Yellowjackets overcame a 32-29 halftime deficit, out-pacing the Nanooks 45-27 over the final 20 minutes of play. The big second half was the result of stellar 8-for-17 accuracy from 3-point range (47.1 percent), after the ‘Jackets made just 3 of 13 threes in the first half.
Early in the game, the ‘Jackets worked back from a 15-10 deficit, with an offensive push that brought the score to 21-20 on three straight points by Kane. Momentum continued to swing back-and-forth, with four ties and three lead changes over the first 15 minutes of action.
Things changed coming out of the locker rooms, as MSUB put together a 13-4 run that covered the first part of the third quarter. MSUB built a five-point edge by the end of the period and never trailed the rest of the night.
The ‘Jackets finished with 16 assists against just eight turnovers in the game, while the Nanooks had 11 giveaways resulting in a dozen MSUB points. MSUB shot 37.9 percent overall (25-for-66), and made 13 of 18 foul shots (72.2 percent). Alaska meanwhile shot 36.1 percent from the field (22-for-61), 33.3 percent from long distance (5-for-15), and made 10 of 12 free throws.
“It’s nice to come back and get a win, and get a split on the trip,” Woodin said. “It’s always difficult playing in Alaska, but we persevered through our slow start and played a strong second half.”
THE BUZZ: Breen was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…Taylor Cunningham had a career-best six assists…she had achieved her previous mark of three on three different occasions…Kane jumped to No. 6 in GNAC history in career assists with 500…MSUB is now 53-14 all-time against Alaska and is 25-9 in games played in Fairbanks…MSUB has won four of the last six, eight of the last 11, and 20 of the last 23 meetings dating back to 2003.
AHEAD: The ‘Jackets remain on the road next week, with two more conference games at Central Washington University and Northwest Nazarene University. Tipoff against the Wildcats is next Thursday at 8 p.m. Mountain time, and the game against the Crusaders will follow next Saturday at 7 p.m. Mountain time.