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Montana State men's, women's basketball teams defeat Northern Arizona by double digits

Montana State men's and women's basketball defeat Northern Arizona by double-digits
Posted at 10:12 PM, Jan 21, 2021

(Editor's note: Montana State University media releases)

The Montana State men's and women's basketball teams both defeated Big Sky Conference for Northern Arizona on Thursday. The Bobcat men got a 62-51 road win, while the Bobcat women cruised to a 79-56 win at home.

Montana State men 62, Northern Arizona 51

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Montana State held Northern Arizona to its second lowest point output of the season as the Bobcats earned a 62-51 victory over the Lumberjacks on Thursday in the Rolle Activity Center. The Bobcats improved to 8-3 overall and 5-0 in Big Sky play, while the Lumberjacks fell to 4-10 (3-5 BSC).

The win for MSU extended its winning streak to six games which is the longest stretch of victories for the 'Cats since the 2003-04 season. The Bobcats' five-game undefeated start to league play is the first time MSU has completed the feat since the 2004-05 season.

Montana State held a lead for 36 of the contest's 40 minutes. Northern Arizona's lone advantage in the contest lasted 29 seconds.

MSU's largest lead of the opening 20 minutes of play came right at halftime as the Bobcats went up 31-26 on a Devin Kirby layup with six seconds remaining on the clock. Both teams went 11 of 24 (45.8%) from the field in the first half, but the 'Cats out-rebounded Northern Arizona 16-12 and had nine more attempts from the free throw line.

The Lumberjacks cut into the Bobcats' lead on three occasions putting the margin into a single possession, but the closest NAU could get was a 43-41 score with 11:31 to go in the second half. MSU's Mike Hood followed with a 3-pointer and Borja Fernandez had an offensive putback to get the Bobcats right back up by seven.

Montana State's lead never went below five the rest of the way.

NAU's 51 points were the least scored by the Lumberjacks in Big Sky play, while it was the lowest total the Bobcat defense has allowed this season.

Nine Bobcats found their way into the scoring column led by Jubrile Belo's 14 points and Xavier Bishop's 12. Amin Adamu had eight rebounds while Belo followed with seven. MSU led the rebounding battle 33-27 and also out-shot Northern Arizona 47-40%.

"You never know what guys will step up on what night," Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said. "I thought Tyler (Patterson) and Nick (Gazelas) had 3-pointers that were huge. Borja (Fernandez) had a big 3. Devin (Kirby's)'s minutes were great. Defensively, he did a really good job when Jubrile got into foul trouble."

Northern Arizona was led by Cameron Shelton who scored 24 points on 10 of 20 shooting. He also had a team-high six rebounds and five assists. Shelton was the lone Lumberjack in double figures scoring. The rest of the team went 10 of 30 (33.3%) from the field.

"I thought we came out with some pretty good energy," Sprinkle said. "If we score early, we seem to relax. I thought all night, to hold that team to 51 points and shoot what they did was tremendous. We really keyed on their two great shooters in (Nik) Mains and (Luke) Advalovic. To limit those two to zero 3-pointers combined, that was huge."

Montana State returns to action in Flagstaff against Northern Arizona on Saturday. Tipoff in Rolle Activity Center is scheduled for 12 p.m.

Montana State women 79, Northern Arizona 56

BOZEMAN -- Montana State held the Big Sky’s top offensive team 17 points under their season average and the Bobcats offense hit on all cylinders en route to a 79-56 victory over Northern Arizona on Thursday night in Worthington Arena.

Montana State (6-5, 3-2) jumped out early building a 16-2 lead on an Ava Ranson three-pointer. Northern Arizona (6-7, 4-5) closed the margin to six-points at the end of the quarter, but the Bobcats used a strong first-half defensive effort to force the Lumberjacks into 16 turnovers- resulting in 18 points- to put enough room between them and the Lumberjacks on the way to its fourth straight win over NAU.

MSU entered intermission with a 35-22 advantage.

“We came out to do the job on the defensive end and the offense just kind of came,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “(NAU) came into the game with six kids averaging double-digits and with the best offensive team in the conference statistically. We knew we were going to have our hands full. Our kids were really locked in, and on offense, we didn’t force the issue.”

The Bobcats shot 43.3% in the first half, while the Lumberjacks went 33.3% from the floor.

A jumper in the lane by Kola Bad Bear, pushed MSU’s lead to twenty points with six-seconds left in the third period. The Bobcats were able to clear the bench in the fourth frame, grabbing its biggest lead at 77-51 on a bucket by freshman Taylor Janssen.

“The ball hit a lot of people’s hands,” Binford said. “We challenged the kids in a variety of ways this past week and I saw a new level of focus, a new mind set. Our guards were knocking down shots and we were able to get our posts going. That was our first complete game with that balance with a lot of different pieces contributing.”

MSU was led by Tori Martell with a game-high 16 points. She was followed by Darian White 15 and Ranson 12. Ranson, a freshman from Boise, Idaho, went four-of-five from long distance to spark the Bobcats offense.

As a team, the Bobcats shot 51.7% from the field, while holding the Lumberjacks to 37%.

NAU held a slim 34-33 margin under the boards. The Bobcats were led by Lexi Deden with a game-high eight rebounds. The Missoula product also posted eight points and a team-best four steals.

The Lumberjacks, who entered the contest averaging 73.2 points per game, were paced by Nyah Moran with 15 points. Northern Arizona had six players averaging double-figures coming into the game, but none hit double-digits.

MSU will host NAU on Saturday afternoon at 12 p.m. in Worthington Arena. The Bobcats have yet to sweep a Big Sky Conference series.

“We need to decide what we’re going to be on Saturdays,” Binford said. “NAU missed a lot of free throws and some open shots and you can’t rely on them doing that again. We need to stay hungry, prepare well and get after it for another forty minutes.”