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Strong start propels MSU Billings women past Wolves

Posted at 10:13 PM, Jan 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-27 00:50:58-05

(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – Shaking off a three-game losing skid on Saturday night at Alterowitz Gym, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team topped Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Western Oregon University 65-53 behind a balanced effort.

Taryn Shelley led all players with 18 points and Hannah Collins had 15, while Vanessa Stavish hauled in a career-high 15 rebounds on a night where the ‘Jackets won the battle of the boards 46-41. Taylor Cunningham had six assists, Brina Hull also had a career high with seven rebounds, and Janessa Williams turned in a strong performance with seven points and three boards off the bench.

The Yellowjackets shook off a tough 65-59 loss at the hands of Concordia on Thursday, and improved to 8-8 overall and 4-6 in league play on the year.

“Tonight was a total team victory,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “I am proud of how our team responded from Thursday’s defeat, and everyone did their job well. We got off to great starts in both halves, and our bench contributed too.”

The Wolves never led in the game, and once MSUB’s advantage reached double figures early in the second the visitors never caught up. Natalie DeLonge, WOU’s leading scorer at 14.9 points per game, was limited to just 24 minutes due to foul trouble. She was still effective with nine points and seven rebounds, while Taisha Thomas was the lone Wolf in double figures with 11 points. Western Oregon slipped to 6-10 overall, and is now 3-7 in conference play with its fourth defeat in the last five games.

Hull grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a touch-jumper as the first period expired, sending the ‘Jacket bench into an uproar with a 21-8 advantage. It was a momentum-shifting moment on a night where MSUB led from wire-to-wire, and WOU never got closer than seven points after that.

“Our defense was excellent in the first quarter,” said Woodin. “Alisha (Breen) prepared our team well and defensively we were contesting shots and battling on the boards. I really felt our defense ignited our offense early, and it was nice to see some shots go in after struggling from the field two days ago.”

The ‘Jackets cooled off after their big 21-point opening quarter, but managed the game well and held a 31-22 lead by halftime. “Give Western Oregon credit, as they played hard and beat us in the second quarter,” said Woodin.

A three by Collins coming out of a timeout made it a 43-26 ballgame as MSUB continued to maintain its distance into the third quarter. After snagging a hard-earned rebound on the defensive end, Shelley drained her first three of the night and pushed the Wolves to call a timeout down 48-28. “Taryn is starting to assert herself around the basket, and her teammates are doing a better job with their post entry passes,” Woodin commented on the freshman, who was one rebound shy of a double-double. “Vanessa’s defensive boards were impressive, and we got good point-guard play from Hannah tonight. Brina and Janessa provided us with a spark when we needed it as well.”

Despite trailing by 23 points at the outset of the fourth quarter, WOU never gave up and put together a 25-point period to finish the game strong. WOU shot just 26.8 percent overall however (19-for-71), and held true to its status as the bottom team in the GNAC in 3-point field goals as it made just 2 of 14 shots from beyond the arc (14.3 percent).

MSUB meanwhile shot a steady 41.1 percent overall (23-for-56), and settled for a mark of 6-for-23 from long range (26.1 percent). One thing the ‘Jackets didn’t do well on an otherwise well-executed night was hit free throws, as they made just 13 of 23 attempts from the line (56.5 percent).

The ‘Jackets won despite committing 20 turnovers, and their total of seven blocks was their second highest this season. It was also just the fourth time this year that MSUB out-rebounded its opponent, and its margin of plus-five was its second-best total.

THE BUZZ: Williams was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 26-7 all-time against WOU and is 13-3 in home games…Stavish’s 15 boards tied for the most in a game by an MSUB player this season, as she matched Shelley’s mark on December 18 against Maryville…Stavish’s previous high in rebounding was 11, which she reached earlier this season on January 12 at the University of Alaska…Hull’s previous high in rebounding was six, which she achieved on February 25, 2017 against Northwest Nazarene.

NEXT WEEK: MSUB heads for the Emerald City next week, for two more conference games. Tipoff on Thursday at Seattle Pacific University is at 7:30 p.m. Pacific/8:30 p.m. Mountain, and the game at Saint Martin’s University next Saturday is at 5:15 p.m. Pacific/6:15 p.m. Mountain.