(Editor’s Note: MSUB Athletics Press Release)
BILLINGS – Tying the mark for the third-most 3-pointers in school history, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team used a balanced effort to cruise past Valley City State University 79-52 in the opening game of the 2018 Yellowjacket Classic at Alterowitz Gym Friday afternoon.
The Yellowjackets (3-1) shot 45.5 percent from the arc overall (15-for-33), hitting the most threes in a game since February 13, 2014 when they achieved the feat against Northwest Nazarene University. Overall it was the eighth time in school history the team has made 15 or more threes, and the ‘Jackets were just two shy of the school record of 17 achieved on December 16, 2005 against Saint Martin’s.
“It was a great day for us,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We had been struggling to put together four quarters of basketball, and I thought today that we did that better than in any other game so far this year. One of the strengths we have is a lot of players who can shoot the ball, and when you can spread the floor and make threes that just opens up a lot of things.”
Ten of the 11 players used on Friday scored at least one point, while 9 of 11 had at least one rebound and at least one assist in the well-rounded effort. Hannah Collins led a quartet of double-figure scorers with 16 points, and she added a career-high eight assists to pace MSUB’s offense. Taylor Cunningham added 15 points, Vanessa Stavish made four threes and wound up with 14 points, and Brina Hull was one off her career high as she had 13 points.
“We came out with a hot start, and we talked about that before the game,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t let down and kept on rolling, and it was a really good win.”
Mackenzie Huber led the visitors with 15 points and added a game-high 13 rebounds, but no other Viking reached double figures in scoring. Hannah Schlecht just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds, as that duo combined for more than half of their team’s 41 rebounds. VCSU fell to 3-5 with the loss.
VCSU led 7-6 early in the opening period, but after Stavish hit her first three of the game to give MSUB a 9-7 advantage the home team never trailed the rest of the game.
Hull had an immediate impact with five quick points off the bench, and her mid-range jumper with five minutes left in the first gave the ‘Jackets a 14-7 advantage. Hull’s preceding trey from the top of the key made it a 4-for-5 start for MSUB from beyond the arc, and overall they shot 50.0 percent from the field in the first quarter (9-for-18).
“We have a ton of scoring threats, and that is really beneficial for us,” Cunningham said. “What we focused on today was rebounding, and I thought we did a better job of that this game.”
Dierra Diegel hit VCSU’s first three of the game coming out of an early timeout in the second quarter, but the ‘Jackets continued to build their advantage to the tune of 30-15.
The Vikings took advantage of a brief lull by MSUB towards the end of the opening half, and cut the deficit to 43-31 after a last-second layup by Alexis Bentz.
Collins had matched her previous career high of six assists by halftime, and had 10 points to join Cunningham (11) as the two ‘Jackets in double figures over the opening 20 minutes.
Stavish connected from the arc on back-to-back possessions opening the second half, and MSUB got back to work building its lead. Jeanann Lemelin hit her second three of the afternoon midway through, pushing VCSU to call a timeout with the score at 57-36 in favor of the ‘Jackets.
MSUB led by no fewer than 19 points the rest of the game, and closed out the game comfortably. Taryn Shelley had a season-high eight rebounds, helping the ‘Jackets to their most successful game on the boards this year as they were out-rebounded by just four, 41-37.
The ‘Jackets also had 18 assists against just seven turnovers, while VCSU coughed up the ball 13 times which led to 22 points off turnovers for MSUB.
The Vikings struggled in the shooting department, hitting just 18 of 55 shots overall (32.7 percent), and making just 2 of 17 threes (11.8 percent). Though VCSU got to the free-throw line often, it made just 14 of 25 attempts (56.0 percent). The ‘Jackets meanwhile shot 44.4 percent overall (28-for-63), and made 8 of 9 foul shots (88.9 percent).
“Our players shared the ball, and we didn’t have many turnovers,” Woodin said. “A lot of different people made our threes, and it is hard to guard us when we move the ball. I’ve been waiting for us to do this, and tonight we were much more consistent.”
THE BUZZ: Hull was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 1-0 against VCSU as Friday was the first-ever meeting between the teams…Collins had previously recorded a high of six assists on two occasions, including most recently on November 16…Friday marked the most points scored and fewest allowed for the ‘Jackets this season…freshmen Shannon Reny and Addison Gardner scored their first career points Friday…Stavish is now nine 3-pointers away from cracking into the MSUB top-10, as she has 116 with Kayla McPherson hitting 125 from 2006-09.
NEXT UP: The ‘Jackets take on Carroll College in an exhibition contest on Sunday at 2 p.m. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal here.