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MSU Billings rallies past Western Oregon, playoff hopes alive

Posted at 9:10 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 14:13:10-05
(MSUB Athletics photo)

(MSUB Athletics release)

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Five Montana State University Billings women’s basketball players reached double figures on Thursday night at the New P.E. Center, as the visiting team rallied for an 80-70 comeback win over Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Western Oregon University.

Taylor Edwards had six straight points for the Yellowjackets to cap off a critical 18-7 run that ate up most of the third quarter. That proved to be the difference on the night, as MSUB closed the night with a 31-point fourth quarter. The ‘Jackets improved to 11-12 overall and kept themselves alive in the GNAC playoff race at 7-10 in conference play.

“This was a gutsy game, and we got off to a rocky start, but we stuck with it,” Edwards said. “I just wanted to give it everything I had offensively and defensively. I know I can knock down shots, so I just went out there and did it.”

Thursday’s win set up another big game with playoff implication on Saturday, when the ‘Jackets visit Concordia University. The Cavaliers (13-9, 8-9 GNAC), who were off Thursday, hold a one-game lead over MSUB.

“To come back from double figures on the road is a true test of your character, and I am really proud of our team,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin on a night that Western Oregon led by as much as 13 points. “The end of the second quarter was big, and that gave us a bit of momentum going into the locker room. Our three seniors all helped us a lot in the second half, and our team responded and did a better job.”

Hannah Collins led MSUB with 16 points, while Vanessa Stavish had 13, Taryn Shelley and Taylor Cunningham each had a dozen, and Jeanann Lemelin added 10. Shelley led MSUB with six rebounds, but the Wolves out-boarded the ‘Jackets 45-36 on the night.

The Yellowjackets were able to overcome a spectacular night by WOU post Natalie DeLonge, who had career highs of 27 points and 15 rebounds while adding in five assists in 33 minutes played. The 6-foot-2 junior forward made 12 of 23 shots and finished the night without a turnover to lead the Wolves. “DeLonge was extremely good for them tonight, and she is a very good post player,” Woodin said.

Keyonna Jones had 18 points to go along with six assists, but no other WOU player had more than six on the evening. The Wolves slipped to 7-17 overall and are now 4-14 in conference play with the defeat.

The ‘Jackets got off to a slow start and trailed 21-12 after the first quarter. WOU started the game 11-for-20, and DeLonge hit four of her first five shots including a hard-fought layup that upped her team’s lead to 25-12 three minutes into the second.

Brina Hull had four quick points to keep the deficit in single digits as halftime approached. The senior followed with a key steal, and Taylor Cunningham hit her first three of the night to break an 0-for-7 slump by the ‘Jackets from downtown. Collins beat the buzzer with a clutch three to close the first half, and suddenly the ‘Jackets found themselves down just 35-30.

A trey by Stavish and a pair of free throws by Collins got the ‘Jackets within a point, down 41-40 late in the third. Edwards followed with back-to-back threes to give MSUB a five-point advantage. The ‘Jackets carried a 49-48 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Wolves were able to wrestle the lead back early on. Jones connected on a big corner three with 7:55 to play, pushing the score back in WOU’s favor at 53-51 and prompting a timeout from the MSUB bench.

Trailing 57-56 with 5:50 left, Hull completed a three-point play that gave MSUB a lead it ultimately never relinquished. It kicked off a 20-6 run that took the game into the final seconds, as the ‘Jackets finished the game came within one point of their highest-scoring quarter of the season.

MSUB shot 41.8 percent on the night (28-for-67), and made 9 of 21 threes after starting the night just 1-for-8 from the arc.

“It puts a little bit of extra pressure on you, but that’s the way it should be,” Woodin commented on the Yellowjackets’ standing in the playoff push. “We play a team in Concordia that is one game ahead of us, and we need to play a great game on Saturday.”

THE BUZZ: Hull was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 27-7 all-time against WOU and is 14-4 in games played in Monmouth…Emily St. John matched her personal best with four assists…Thursday marked the second time this season MSUB had five players reach double figures in scoring…MSUB committed just seven turnovers on Thursday, tied for its lowest total in a game this season.

NEXT UP: Saturday marks the final regular-season road game for the ‘Jackets who head up I5 to Portland to face Concordia University. Tipoff is set for 5:15 p.m. Pacific time, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal.