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MSU Billings bounces No. 2 seed at NCAA II West Regionals

Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 09, 2018

(MSUB Athletics release)

AZUSA, Calif. – Rylee Kane scored 10 first-quarter points and 19 total on Friday afternoon at the Felix Event Center, leading Montana State University Billings to a 76-65 win over No. 19 Hawaii Pacific University in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships at Azusa Pacific University.

The Yellowjackets held the No. 11 team in the NCAA in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.2) to just 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) on Friday. MSUB won its fifth straight game, and for the third straight game defeated a team that it had lost to during the regular season. The ‘Jackets avenged a 79-52 defeat on Dec. 19 in Honolulu, and improved to 23-11 to tie for the third-most wins in single-season history.

Senior Alisha Breen extended her Great Northwest Athletic Conference record of consecutive games with 20 or more points to 11, as she finished with a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double. Breen overcame a slow start, as she had just five points after three quarters before erupting for 17 over the final 10 minutes.

Vanessa Stavish finished with 13 points, including three 3-pointers on a night where MSUB shot 40.0 percent from the arc (10-for-25).

HPU’s Samantha Lambrigtsen had a takeaway for a breakaway layup with 2:40 to go in the game, bringing HPU within five points down 65-60. Breen countered with a three-point play however, and the ‘Jackets had an eight-point advantage with two minutes to play. Senior Lexi Prevost came up with a huge steal the next time down the court, and Breen drilled two more free throws to reestablish a 10-point edge for the ‘Jackets.

MSUB was never in danger of relinquishing the lead after that, closing the game with six free throws to secure the win. The Sharks, who were the No. 2 seed entering the tournament, finished their season with a record of 26-4 after winning the PacWest Conference regular-season and tournament titles. Lambrigtsen led her team with 22 points, but was the only Shark in double figures on the evening.

The ‘Jackets got off to a slow start offensively, missing their first three shots of the afternoon. Kane quickly came to life however, scoring eight of MSUB’s first 10 points over the first seven minutes of the opening quarter. Kane closed the period by dashing the full 94 feet in five seconds, and making the layup to even the score at 14-14.

Breen’s first bucket of the game gave MSUB its largest lead to that point, up 24-16 early in the second quarter. MSUB kept its momentum going from there, as Breen whipped a strong pass to the wing for a deep trey by Prevost to make it 32-20. Four different HPU players combined for the next nine points, getting the Sharks back into the game quickly. Kane finally put a stop to the run with her first three of the game, giving MSUB a six-point lead with a minute before halftime.

MSUB defended the 3-point line well in the opening 20 minutes, holding the Sharks to just 2-for-9 from distance. Alysha Marcucci, who entered the day No. 2 in the nation at 48.6 percent from long range, was 0-for-3 from long range in the first half. Marcucci’s shooting woes continued in the second half as she missed her only 3-point attempt, but she managed to finish with nine points.

Breen hit her first three of the game to open the fourth quarter and extend MSUB’s advantage to 54-44. The Yellowjackets held strong during the middle of the fourth, when HPU hovered around a two-possession game but failed to pull any closer.

Prevost finished the night with eight points, and also had three steals, two assists, and two rebounds while playing 31 minutes. Breen meanwhile chipped in five assists primarily coming when her first-half shots weren’t falling.

THE BUZZ: Kane was tabbed the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…the ‘Jackets are now 3-2 all-time against the Sharks…HPU made 11 threes in its early-season blowout of MSUB…Friday marked MSUB’s first regional playoff win since the 2013-14 season, when the team advanced to the title game…the double-double was the 17th of the year for Breen, which is the fourth-most in GNAC single-season history and is the most in the league this year…Breen broke the single-season GNAC record for field-goal attempts, as she now has 534 and passed Western Washington University’s Taylor Peacocke (530 in 2016-17)…Breen has scored 724 points this year, and is 22 points away from breaking Peacocke’s GNAC single-season record of 745 (2016-17).

NEXT UP: The Yellowjackets will face No. 3 seed UC San Diego, which defeated No. 6 seed Seattle Pacific 64-51 in Game 1 Friday, on Saturday at 5 p.m. Pacific time in the west region semifinals. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online.