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Balanced effort leads MSU Billings past Seattle Pacific

Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-05 20:15:02-05

(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – All nine players utilized by the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team on Saturday scored, as the Yellowjackets topped visiting Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Seattle Pacific University 72-64 at Alterowitz Gym.

The Falcons led 10-9 late in the opening quarter, but after Jeanann Lemelin hit a three to make it 12-10 with 1:06 left in the period MSUB never trailed the rest of the game. Lemelin matched her career high with 10 points in the opening half, hitting a pair of threes on a night where MSUB was 11-for-25 overall from the arc (44.0 percent).

Taryn Shelley had her second straight double-double and third in the last four games, scoring a game-high 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Taylor Cunningham added a dozen points and Hannah Collins had nine to go along with four assists. “We came out a little soft, but came back in the second quarter and had a good rest of the game,” Shelley commented. “Jeanann played really great today, and it is really great that we have so many options to be able to score.”

MSUB won its second straight game, improving to 6-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play. The Yellowjackets kept their 2018-19 home record perfect, moving to 4-0 at Alterowitz Gym. “I am really proud of our team, as all nine players scored and contributed and it was a good team win today,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We have a lot of balance, and have lots of different people who can step up. It was really important to get two wins this week, because we were 0-2. If you want to be relevant (in the GNAC) you don’t want to dig too deep of a hole. We played with great intensity for almost the entire 80 minutes this week, and it was our best back-to-back performances of the year.”

Seattle Pacific (4-7, 3-1 GNAC) suffered its first conference defeat of the season, in large part due to its worst 3-point shooting of the season at just 1-for-9 from the perimeter (11.1 percent). Cici West came up just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Falcons. Hailee Bennett had 12 points and Natalie Hoff had 11, while Carly Rataushk had eight points and eight rebounds for the visitors.

Coming off its best start of the year with 26 points in the first quarter of Thursday’s 75-67 win over Saint Martin’s, the ‘Jackets couldn’t replicate that as it took them nearly five minutes to score their first points. After Lemelin’s big three gave the team the first-quarter lead, Collins completed a three-point play to give the ‘Jackets a 15-12 advantage 10 minutes in.

Vanessa Stavish opened the second quarter with her 126th career 3-pointer, as she passed Kayla McPherson (2006-09) for No. 10 in MSUB history. That kicked off a 21-15 quarter by the ‘Jackets, who had a 36-27 lead by halftime.

Bennett scored six of the first eight points for the Falcons in the third quarter, getting her team back into the game as they trailed just 40-35. Shelley subbed in and quickly converted three straight layups however, and Brina Hull capped off a 9-0 run with a three to make it 49-35.

MSUB’s lead never dipped below double figures after that point, until West made a three-point play in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Lemelin finished the game with a team-best three steals, and was a key defensive presence in disrupting the Falcons’ rhythm. “Jeanann is really coming on as an offensive player, and she is one of our best defenders,” Woodin said. “We usually put her on the other team’s best guard, and that takes a lot of energy.”

Overall MSUB shot 26-for-62 from the field (41.9 percent), and made 9 of 14 free throws (64.3 percent). The ‘Jackets had 19 assists – including eight different players with at least one – and committed only 12 turnovers in the game. SPU meanwhile had 10 assists against 12 giveaways, and shot 22-for-55 overall (40.0 percent) and 19-for-27 from the foul line (70.4 percent).

Taylor Edwards matched a career high with seven rebounds, while Stavish also had seven to help MSUB to a 37-35 advantage on the boards. It was just the second time this season that MSUB out-rebounded its opponent. “It’s great because none of us are selfish,” Edwards commented on the balanced scoring effort. “Everyone is sharing the ball and distributing it, and it doesn’t matter where it is coming from. Everyone is just having a great time out there.”

THE BUZZ: Lemelin was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…Lemelin also had 10 points on November 16 at Chadron State…Saturday was the third time in Edwards’ career she reached seven rebounds…Emily St. John had a season-high four assists…MSUB is now 22-31 all-time against SPU and is 15-8 in home games…it was MSUB’s first home win against SPU since January 9, 2016.

NEXT UP: The ‘Jackets start a four-game road trip next week in Alaska. MSUB plays at No. 14 Alaska Anchorage next Thursday at 7 p.m. local time/9 p.m. Mountain, and at the University of Alaska next Saturday at 3 p.m. local time/5 p.m. Mountain.