(Editor's note: Montana State Athletics press release)
BOZEMAN -- Montana State shot a blistering 75% from the field in the second half to blow open a two-point halftime lead, en route to an 81-65 victory over Southern Utah on Wednesday night in America First Events Center.
Montana State (22-6, 18-1) led by four after the opening quarter before Southern Utah (16-12, 10-9) responded with a 15-4 run midway through the second stanza to grab a 31-26 lead with 3:44 left until intermission. MSU closed out the final three minutes on a 7-0 run to take a 33-31 advantage into the break.
“I thought we came out a little flat,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We weren’t getting anything from the wings, and we were stagnant with our ball movement. I was pleased with how we closed out the half. It gave us a good spark heading into halftime.”
MSU opened the third period on an 18-8 run ignited by eight points from Fallyn Freije. The Cats led 51-39 with 4:21 remaining in the quarter. Montana State took its largest lead at 78-57 following a Freije triple with 3:29 left in the contest and cruised down the stretch to its 14th straight victory.
“We came out an executed very well at the beginning of the third quarter,” Binford said. “We were attack-minded and moved the ball to find the open shot. And, when we had the open shot, we knocked it down. I also thought our guards did a nice job getting the ball inside and we were able to outscore them by 12-points in the paint.”
Freije finished with a game-high 20 points - her fourth 20-point output of the season. Also hitting double-figures were Darian White 17, Oliana Squires 15 and Blaire Braxton 12. White did most of her damage in the opening frame scoring 11 points in the quarter. Freije and Squires posted 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the second half as the Cats connected on 21-of-28 from the field.
MSU’s backcourt duo of White and Squires also combined for 10 assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
The Bobcats held a slim 26-24 advantage under the glass guided by Braxton with a team-high six rebounds.
The Thunderbirds were paced by Rebecca Cardenas with a team-best 14 points.
Montana State’s 18th Big Sky Conference win matches the 2012-13 Weber State men’s team for the second-best total in league history. The Bobcats will look to match the 2012-13 Montana men’s squad with 19 victories- the most in the history of the Big Sky.
The win also gave Binford her 250th career victory.
MSU closes out its regular-season slate at Northern Colorado on Friday at 7 p.m., in Bank of Colorado Arena in Greeley.