(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN — Montana State overcame a 17-point first-half deficit behind gritty defense and 62.5% shooting to post a 61-60 come-from-behind victory over Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon in Worthington Arena in front of 2,148 fans.
Montana State’s (15-7, 8-2) Kola Bad Bear converted a layup with 2 minutes, 37-seconds remaining, which ended MSU’s scoring. Sacramento State’s (15-5, 6-3) Kahlaijah Dean closed the margin to 61-60 with just under two minutes left following a one-of-two effort from the line. It would be the Hornets’ last point, as well.
Down the stretch, Montana State failed to put up a shot turning the ball over twice on offensive foul calls. Sacramento State had four opportunities in the final one minute, 16-seconds to take the lead. With 18-seconds left, Dean’s jumper missed the mark, but Solape Amusan corralled the offensive rebound. Following a Hornet timeout with 10.1-seconds left, Dean worked the ball to the right wing and penetrated but was met by three Bobcat players and her off-balanced shot at the buzzer missed the mark and Bad Bear pulled down her team-high sixth rebound.
“In that last timeout I told our kids they needed one stop,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We needed to really contest the shot and make it as tough as possible. When Dean penetrated our kids did an outstanding job plugging things up and we got the stop we needed.”
The Bobcats had trouble getting any stops in the first half as Sacramento State took an early 19-2 lead following an Amusan three-pointer. The Hornets connected on seven-of-nine from beyond the arc in the first quarter to take a 25-13 lead heading into the second frame. The Bobcats chipped the margin to 31-23 on a three-point play by Darian White. The Hornets finished out the period with five unanswered points to take a 36-23 lead into intermission.
“Sacramento State did a great job capitalizing on our mistakes in the first half,” Binford said. “At halftime, we talked about cutting done on our errors and controlling the controllables. We changed up our defense in the second half and focused on chipping away at the lead and increasing our ball pressure.
“The crowd did a great job giving us the energy we needed down the stretch,” Binford added. “I hope they saw the toughness this team possesses. I am proud of our second half effort.”
Montana State opened the second half on 10-0 run to pull within 36-33 following a Taylor Janssen triple. The Hornets held a three-point advantage heading into the final quarter.
After trailing for 34 minutes, 28 seconds, MSU took its first lead on a pair of Leia Beattie free throws at the 5:32 mark. The lead changed hands twice with Bad Bears’ basket with 2:37 left ultimately securing the Bobcat win.
Bad Bear finished with 17 points on seven-of-11 from the field. The Billings Senior product recorded 11 second half points. Also in double-digit was White with 13 points. She also chipped in five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Beattie came off the bench to record nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
For the game, MSU shot 42.3% from the field, while holding Sacramento State to 31.6%. The Bobcats shut the door on the Hornets in the final frame limiting Sac State to three-of-20 from the floor. MSU outscored the Hornets 30-8 in the paint. Sacramento State held a 36-34 edge in rebounding.
Dean paced the Hornets with a game-high 28 points, while Amusan added 18 points, all coming from three-point distance.
The 17-point deficit was the largest margin a Binford coached team has ever come back from in her 18-years on the Bobcat sideline. MSU sits alone atop of the Big Sky standings, 1 ½ games ahead of Sacramento State.
MSU plays at Northern Arizona next Thursday night.