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MSU Billings women hammer Concordia, clinch GNAC tourney ticket

Posted at 11:02 PM, Feb 15, 2018

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Alisha Breen led an offensive charge on Thursday night at Alterowitz Gym, scoring 25 points and adding eight rebounds and eight assists as the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team knocked off Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Concordia University 77-57 on Pink Night.

According to the GNAC website standings, the Yellowjackets (18-9, 11-6 GNAC) have clinched a berth in the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships with the win.

Breen nailed her first four threes of the night, and had a dozen points and three assists by the end of the opening quarter. Her eight assists matched her career high, and she also had three steals in 32 minutes. Vanessa Stavish made 5 of 11 shots from the floor for 14 points, and Rylee Kane was also in double figures with 13. Kane added six assists, and reached a career-high six steals in the win for MSUB.

“It was a good all-around win, and we played well against a good team,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Alisha was hot from the outset from the 3-point line, and that gave us a little bit of breathing room. We played a good second quarter, and we were able to withstand their rallies.”

Concordia’s hopes to reach the conference tournament dwindled with the loss, as it fell to 13-13 overall and 7-11 in league games. Danielle Hartzog led the Cavaliers with 13 points, while Taylor Thompson chipped in a dozen. MSUB limited star post Bailey Cartwright to just four points and six boards, though the Cavaliers still won the rebounding battle 37-32.

Concordia took a 2-0 advantage when Cartwright hit the first layup of the game, but it was the visiting team’s only lead of the night. The ‘Jackets responded immediately and had an 18-13 edge by the end of the quarter. A key point in the game for the ‘Jackets came at the beginning of the second quarter, when Kane, Stavish, and Grace Weeks combined for eight straight points and a 26-15 lead.

The spread in the opening half peaked at 15 points, when Breen converted a three-point play with 1:10 to go before the break. MSUB made 13 of 31 shots over the opening 20 minutes, while CU made just 9 of 33 which translated into a 37-23 halftime lead for the ‘Jackets.

Stavish and Kane teamed up for a strong start to the third quarter, as each had a pair of buckets and another 8-2 burst made it a 20-point game. The Yellowjackets’ lead never dipped below 15 points the rest of the night, as CU failed to gain any traction in the form of a comeback.

Weeks finished with seven points off the bench, while freshman Hannah Collins had three rebounds and a pair of assists to go along with two points in 17 minutes. The ‘Jackets finished the game at 50.0 percent from the floor (26-for-52), 32.0 percent from 3-point range (8-for-25), and 85.0 percent from the foul line (17-for-20). CU meanwhile shot just 34.9 percent from the floor (22-for-63), and made only 4 of 15 threes on the night (26.7 percent).

The MSUB defense generated 15 CU turnovers, which resulted directly in 14 points.

PINK NIGHT: Prior to Thursday’s game, breast cancer survivors were honored in a ceremony as the Yellowjackets partnered with St. Vincent Healthcare and the EVA Project. MSUB wore its pink jerseys during Thursday’s game, and all proceeds from the evening were donated directly towards research for the fight against cancer. “We have been doing Pink Night for over a decade, and it just keeps getting stronger each year,” said Woodin. “We are just trying to promote awareness for breast cancer, and it is fun to have the survivors here. It makes it feel like there is extra spirit in the crowd when we get to wear the pink uniforms each year.”

THE BUZZ: Breen was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…the Yellowjackets are now 6-1 all-time against CU and are 4-0 in home games…Kane’s previous career high in steals was five on March 4, 2016 against Western Washington…Thursday was Breen’s third career game with eight assists…Breen moved into a tie for fifth place in GNAC history with 1,752 career points, matching University of Alaska Anchorage’s Rebecca Kielpinski (2005-09)…MSUB completed a season sweep of Concordia, after beating the Cavaliers in non-conference play 72-65 on Nov. 17 and in Portland, Ore., 69-61 on Jan. 20.

AHEAD: Saturday marks Senior Night for MSUB, which will host Western Oregon University in the final home game of the year. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with a ceremony honoring the Yellowjackets’ five graduating players to take place after the game. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal.