BILLINGS – The MSU Billings women’s basketball team opens a string of 18 consecutive conference games Thursday night when it hosts Saint Martin’s. And it’s trying to navigate the waters of not only being targeted, but additionally of coming off one of the most spectacular seasons in school history.
The Yellowjackets played all the way into last year’s Elite 8 of the national tournament, so it’s a safe bet that every team they face circles MSUB on its schedule with something to prove.
MSUB also lost four-year starting guard Riley Kane and first-team all-American Alisha Breen, who played all five positions throughout her career.
The culmination poses sizable challenges.
“I think it’s a little bit more drastic than last year, for sure,” said guard Taylor Edwards. “I think we had a lot of key players last year that stepped up and filled those shoes, like our all-American and (Kane). But this year we’ve got a lot of different people having to step up and fill those shoes. So, it’s not just one person scoring 30 points a game, it’s all of us collectively scoring in double figures.”
Fellow guard Jeanann Lemelin sees it similarly.
“I think we just came out this year and knew that we had to step up,” she said. “We have a lot of new girls getting a lot of playing time, but we have that experience of going that far. I think that we do have a bigger crowd. A lot of people want to see if we’re going to do that again, and we like the support and we like the challenge.”
The Jackets do hope to benefit from some additional size this season.
“We have Taryn Shelley now in the post at 6-(foot)-3 and that’s something we haven’t had in a while,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “So we definitely need to get her some touches. We’re still a developing team. Offensively, we’ve had games where we’ve made a lot of 3s. I think that’s really a big part of our offense, but consistency is a problem we’ve had. Once we establish that I think we can get better.”
MSUB enters Thursday’s game 4-4 overall, 0-2 in GNAC play.