(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Hannah Collins knocked down the second of two free-throw attempts with 0.2 seconds left on the clock Tuesday night at the Fortin Center, sealing a wild 63-62 exhibition women’s basketball win for Montana State University Billings over host Rocky Mountain College.
Collins led all players with 20 points in the game, and her deep trey with three minutes to go gave MSUB a 58-55 lead that it never relinquished. “I knew we needed a big momentum swing, so I just tried to make a big play for my team,” Collins commented on the game-changing trey. “At the end, I was just trying to drop the ball in and make a point so we didn’t have to go to overtime.”
Despite leading 31-28 at halftime, the Yellowjackets were drastically out-played in the third quarter when Rocky hit 8 of 10 shots and parlayed a 23-9 period into a 51-40 lead. “We just talked about locking down on defense and being aggressive on the offensive end,” Collins said after the rough third quarter. “Being down by 11 and coming back really showed our mental toughness as a team.”
MSUB went on a 16-4 run to open the fourth quarter, which was capped off by Collins’ deep three from the wing. The fireworks were far from over in the final three minutes however, as Markaela Francis answered with a corner three that brought an energetic crowd to its feet inside of 1:30 to play. Alecia Chamberlain made a layup to tie it 62-62 with six seconds left, but Collins was fouled on her drive just before time expired to earn the decisive free throws.
“Hannah played much better in the second half, and we really wanted to get her the ball,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “I am really proud of our team today, and to come back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter is really big for our confidence.”
MSUB remains 0-0 on the year and Rocky stays at 3-0 after Tuesday’s exhibition game. The ‘Jackets open their regular season on Friday at home against the University of Providence, while Rocky next plays on Nov. 16 against Corban University in Kirkland, Washington.
Through its first three wins – two over Salish Kootenai and one over Yellowstone Christian – RMC out-scored the opposition by an average margin of 52.7 points per game. It was a different story Tuesday night, in the Bears’ most competitive opponent yet this season. Chamberlain led RMC with 18 points, while Francis (12) and Alyssa Big Man (11) were also in double figures for the Bears. Point guard Kloie Thatcher led her team in both rebounding and assists with six apiece, and the Bears were narrowly out-rebounded 30-28 on the night.
MSUB senior Vanesa Stavish neared a double-double, with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Taylor Cunningham and Brina Hull had eight points apiece for MSUB. Collins finished with five assists, helping her team to a positive assist-turnover margin at 13-11 on the evening.
“Our effort was better (in the fourth), and Brina (Hull) came in and made some shots for us,” Woodin said. “Rocky does a good job of spreading you out and creating one-on-one situations, but we just came alive, gutted it out, and found a way to win.”
Collins made the first bucket of the night on the Yellowjackets’ first possession, but the Bears scored the next nine points while MSUB endured a cold stretch and committed a pair of early turnovers.
A trey from the wing by Hull and a long jumper by Stavish evened the score at 13-13 and capped off a 7-0 run by the ‘Jackets to get back into the game. Jeanann Lemelin set the tone defensively by generating a pair of key turnovers late in the first, and Janessa Williams made her second bucket of the night to give MSUB a 17-15 edge after 10 minutes of play.
Chamberlain got off to a hot start, hitting four of her first six shots and pacing RMC with nine of its first 18 points.
A long pass from Collins at half court led to an acrobatic twirl and finish by Stavish under the basket, as the ‘Jackets nudged their advantage to 24-18 and pushed Bears head coach Wes Keller to call a timeout midway through the second.
Collins completed a three-point play with just under two minutes to go before halftime, as MSUB maintained a six-point advantage up 31-25. Both teams were efficient in the opening half, with MSUB shooting 50 percent (14-for-28) and Rocky hitting at a clip of 44.4 percent (12-for-27).
A three by Big Man and a free throw by Thatcher gave RMC its first lead since the opening quarter, as the Bears nudged ahead 34-33 to start the momentum-changing third quarter. After a quiet second, Chamberlain came back to life with a bucket, and Big Man hit a corner three at the three-minute mark to give RMC its largest lead to that point at 44-35. Chamberlain sealed the third with a layup as time expired, giving her team an 11-point edge with 10 minutes left to play.
Taylor Edwards’ first trey of the night cut the deficit to 53-46, and Lemelin hit another long ball coming out of a timeout to get the ‘Jackets within four. MSUB kept its foot on the gas and a layup by Collins with 4:33 to go evened the score at 53-53. Overall the ‘Jackets out-scored the Bears 23-11 over the final 10 minutes.
Each team made 25 of 52 field goal attempts (48.1 percent), while Rocky made 4 of 11 threes (36.4 percent) and MSUB converted 6 of 18 (33.3 percent). The Bears were hurt by a mark of just 57.1 percent from the foul line (8-for-14), while the ‘Jackets made 7 of 8 free throws.
THE BUZZ: Collins was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is 63-14 all-time in counting games against the Bears…the last game between the teams that counted was on December 8, 2017, when MSUB won 62-57 at Alterowitz Gym…the teams will meet in another exhibition contest on December 7 at Alterowitz Gym.
NEXT UP: The 2018-19 season officially gets underway Friday at Alterowitz Gym, when the ‘Jackets host the University of Providence. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., with live video and live statistics available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal.