(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN — Montana State got the start they wanted, but a dismal second quarter proved too much to overcome as Eastern Washington defeated the Bobcats 78-65 on Monday night in the regular season finale for both squads.
Montana State (20-10, 13-5) enjoyed a 27-13 lead 23-seconds into the second period following a Madison Jackson jumper. Then things started to unravel. The Bobcats connected on just two-of-18 attempts from the field the rest of the frame as Eastern Washington (18-10, 11-7) outscored the Bobcats 18-4. Darian White’s coast-to-coast layin as time expired evened the contest at 31 heading into halftime.
EWU held the momentum and pulled away from a one-point advantage behind a 10-1 run staking a 47-37 lead at the 6:17 of the third period. The Bobcats cut the margin to five points on two occasions in the waning moments of the quarter but could get no closer as the Eagles shot 42% from the field and converted 13-of-14 free throws to fend off MSU. The Bobcats shot 32% in the second half and were outrebounded 24-17, as EWU outscored MSU 11-0 in second chance points.
“We had a fantastic first quarter, then we just got in our own way,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We lacked focus, didn’t play our style of basketball and we made too many mistakes. Credit Eastern Washington for taking advantage of our situation.”
White guided Montana State with a game-high 27 points in her final game in Worthington Arena giving her 1,702 career points and becoming the third Bobcat in history, joining Kathleen McLaughlin Howard (1,761) and Katie Bussey (1,710), to reach the milestone. The mark also puts her among the top 20 all-time scorers in Big Sky Conference history, as well.
Also in double-figure for the Bobcats was senior Jackson, who finished with 11 points.
Senior Kola Bad Bear paced MSU under the boards, pulling down a season-high ten rebounds.
“Our biggest strength heading into the tournament is the takeaway from this game,” Binford said. “No one in the postgame locker room felt good about our performance. We’ll use it as motivation. Winning a regular season Big Sky title is hard, and the kids need to recognize that. We will regroup, learn from our mistakes, and move on. We still have a lot of things we want to accomplish.”
Eastern Washington had five players in double-figures led by Aaliyah Alexander with 21 points. Jacinta Buckley finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Montana State will enter next weekend’s Big Sky Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed and plays its first game Sunday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m. against the winner of Saturday’s Portland State/Idaho State contest.
The Big Sky Tournament is held at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho.