(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – Keeping its spot at the top of the 2018-19 Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings on Saturday night, No. 10 University of Alaska Anchorage knocked off the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team 72-57 at Alterowitz Gym.
The Seawolves, who were late out of the locker room after halftime, literally raced onto the court and out to a double-figure lead by the middle of the third quarter. UAA out-paced MSUB 23-16 in the decisive period and never looked back, improving to 21-1 overall and 13-1 in conference play to stay locked in a first-place tie with No. 7 Northwest Nazarene University.
MSUB meanwhile fell back to .500 on the season at 10-10 overall, and slipped into a three-way tie for sixth in the conference standings with a record of 6-8 in league play. “They are a senior-laden team and have a lot of players back from last year,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “You have to play almost a perfect game to beat them. Our players played hard, but they were better than us tonight.”
Sydni Stallworth paced a quartet of double-figure scorers for UAA, with 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 3-for-5 accuracy from 3-point range. Sala Langi chipped in 14, Yazmeen Goo had 13, and Hannah Wandersee finished with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and a steal.
UAA disrupted MSUB throughout the night with 15 steals, leading to 18 turnovers by the ‘Jackets and 20 Seawolves points off turnovers.
Hannah Collins was MSUB’s leading scorer with 14 points, while Vanessa Stavish, Taryn Shelly, and Emily St. John finished with 10 apiece. For the latter it was her first-ever game reaching double figures, as St. John knocked down 7 of 8 foul shots and also had a steal while playing 17 minutes off the bench.
MSUB shot a respectable 8-for-19 from 3-point range (42.1 percent), but made just 10 of 34 non-threes on the evening (29.4 percent). In addition to struggling inside the paint, the ‘Jackets were out-rebounded 41-36 while being held to their third-lowest point total of the season.
“We handled their pressure better than we did last time we played them, but their depth wears on you,” Woodin commented eluding to MSUB’s bitter 87-42 defeat in Anchorage last month. “Hannah Wandersee is a great player, and they have lots of players who can drive and shoot. They put a lot of pressure on you one-on-one and create pressure off the dribble.”
Shelley was a beast on the boards early on, and Taylor Cunningham and Collins combined for five straight points to give MSUB a 9-4 edge in the first. Wandersee’s first field goal of the night didn’t come until the 3:20 mark in the first quarter, and the ‘Jackets carried a 19-15 lead after the first 10 minutes of play. “We got off to a pretty good start, but I felt we should have been ahead by more than four,” Woodin said. “We were playing really well in the first quarter, but give them credit for fighting back.”
UAA pulled off an 8-0 run early on in the second, pushing Coach Woodin to call a timeout with his team trailing 25-22. St. John put a stop to the run with a three from the wing, but Stallworth countered with her first triple of the game. A 21-11 advantage in the second quarter gave UAA a 36-30 lead at the break, and the ‘Jackets never evened the score the rest of the night.
The Seawolves came out of the halftime break with a strong start, turning their lead into a 10-point advantage in the first two minutes. After that, UAA employed its stingy defense to manage a 13-11 fourth quarter and seal its 14th straight victory. “The third quarter was the key, and we knew we needed to come out and dig into the lead,” Woodin commented. “I was proud of our players’ effort, and we will regroup and hopefully be ready next week.”
UAA shot 38.3 percent overall (23-for-60), 23.5 percent form 3-point range (4-for-17), and made just 22 of 32 free throws (68.8 percent). The Seawolves limited their giveaways with just 10 turnovers on the night, while out-scoring MSUB 36-18 in the paint.
THE BUZZ: St. John was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 27-37 all-time against UAA and is 15-15 in home games…St. John’s previous career high was seven points, achieved on January 19 against Northwest Nazarene…Stavish hit a pair of threes, giving her 140 in her career and tying her for No. 9 in school history with Kalli (Stanhope) Allen (2008-12).
AHEAD: MSUB remains at home next week, with two more conference games at Alterowitz Gym. Next Thursday is Pink Night against No. 7 Northwest Nazarene University on Valentine’s Day. On Saturday, the ‘Jackets will host Central Washington University. Both games will tip off at 7 p.m., and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online here.