(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)
BOZEMAN -- In the first 79 minutes and 59 seconds of Montana State’s home-and-home women’s basketball weekend series against Idaho State, Tori Martell scored 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Then, with five seconds to play and MSU trailing the league-leading Bengals 72-69, Bobcat coach Tricia Binford drew up a play that was complicated on the white board but simple conceptually. Martell drained a deep three-pointer, scored nine more points in overtime, and at the end of it all Montana State captured an 88-80 overtime victory that gave the team a weekend split against the league leaders.
“I could not have asked them to execute that play any better,” Binford said of Martell’s exhilarating game-tying triple. “Darian (White, MSU’s point guard) asked me three times what she needed to do after I drew it up, and I said, ‘All you need to do is hit Gabby, screen Tori.’ I told her four times, ‘Hit Gabby, screen Tori,’ and she hit Gabby and screened for Tori, and got (Martell) a great look.”
That look came about 25 feet from the basket – “It was pretty deep, but there’s nothing outside of Tori’s range,” Binford said – and Martell drilled it to tie the game with 0.6 seconds to play. MSU’s senior sharp-shooter used the overtime period to wipe away the frustrations of Thursday and most of Saturday, scoring nine points on four-for-four shooting in the final five minutes, 19 seconds of the weekend.
It started with the stunning three-pointer at the end of regulation, but Martell was anything but finished. She hit a scoop shot 65 seconds in to give MSU a 76-74 advantage, nailed a two-point jumper with 2:43 to play to break a 78-78 tie, converted two free throws, then hit possibly the second-biggest shot of the afternoon with 49 seconds left, a three-point bomb to give the Cats an 85-78 advantage and seal the victory.
“It was really exciting,” Martell, MSU’s senior sharpshooter, said of the immediate aftermath of her big shot in regulation, “but there was still point-six seconds left and all I could think of in my head was that they could still win. I just wanted to get those point-six seconds over so we could go to overtime. But all my teammates were very excited and that’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”
The flashy finish seemed improbable for much of the game. Idaho State scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and took a 17-12 lead after one quarter. The Bobcats used that 8-0 quarter-closing run as a catapult, and out-scored the Bengals 25-8 in the second quarter to carry a 37-25 lead into the intermission. MSU built the lead to 49-34, but the Bengals finished the third stanza on a 15-6 run to shave the lead to 55-49 entering the fourth.
As the Bobcats had done in the first half, Idaho State rode that momentum. The Bengals took a 62-60 lead on Diaba Konate’s jumper with 3:12 to play. The biggest ISU lead in the fourth quarter was the three-point cushion it enjoyed before Martell’s big shot. And even that lead seemed less comfortable than it could have for ISU. With Konate made two free throws to build that lead, and when MSU’s Madison Jackson missed a three-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation Idaho State seemed in great position for the weekend sweep.
But when Callie Bourne missed both free throws after grabbing the rebound on Jackson’s triple attempt, Taylor Janssen secured the rebound giving the Cats a chance to tie. And it gave Binford a chance to dust off the quick-hitting frontcourt inbounds play to set up Martell’s heroics. “Coach Bin just drew up the play,” Martell said. “I think we actually executed the play, the screens were good, and I felt a little open so I just shot it. It still feels like it didn’t really happen, but it was really exciting and I’m glad it did.”
Martell’s late heroics make for good headlines, but Jackson kept the Bobcats close when Idaho State’s early lead was threatening to make everything thereafter irrelevant. The sophomore notched career bests with 20 points and seven rebounds, and when she hit a triple to tie the game at 22 all with 5:25 to play in the first half Jackson had scored seven of the team’s points.
“She was definitely in a zone in the first half,” Binford said of Jackson, “and just her spark for us on both ends of the floor was fantastic. It was definitely a big-time game by her.”
Jackson said a focus on defense helped spark her offense. “I honestly had the mentality of defense,” she said. “Defense, defense, defense. And then my offense decided to be on, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to go with it then.’”
One of the most experienced teams in the Big Sky, Idaho State executed its offense exquisitely for most of the afternoon. The Bengals shot 16-for-31 from the floor in the third and fourth quarters, although the Bobcats held ISU to 27 percent shooting in the overtime and 38.6 percent for the game. “I felt like they picked us apart in the second half,” Binford said. “I thought they exposed us and did a very good job, give them a lot of credit on how they (executed) their actions today. The second half it was really, really difficult to get stops on a consistent basis.”
MSU also struggled offensively at times, but five-for-six shooting in overtime was the tonic the team needed. Martell said it was a matter of getting back to the team’s foundational philosophy. “I think we got away from what we were doing in the first half,” she said. “Once they started coming back we kind of froze a little bit and went back to old habits of not doing what we do, not sharing the ball like usually do when we get our open shots. I think we finally got back to that at the end there and we pulled it out.”
Idaho State out-rebounded MSU 48 to 41, but the Cats forced 16 Bengals turnovers while giving the ball away just 10 times. Bourne led all players with 13 boards, and Konate added 10. Both players notched double-doubles (Bourne scored 14 points, Konate 11). Delaney Moore’s 25 points for the Bengals led all players.
Jackson and Martell each scored 20 for the Cats to share team-high honors. Kola Bad Bear’s nine rebounds matches her career-high, and White had three steals.
Montana State finished the hard-fought weekend 14-6 overall and 11-3 in the league, while ISU is 16-3, 12-2. The Bobcats host Idaho next weekend, with the Vandals entering Thursday’s 6 pm showdown 13-3 in the Big Sky and in second place between MSU and Idaho State.