(Editor's note: Montana State athletics press release)
BOZEMAN—The opening 10-minutes of its game against Utah Valley looked like a carryover from its double overtime win over MSU Billings on Thursday night. Montana State went three-of-18 from the field in the first quarter, but then caught fire hitting at a 55% clip for the remainder of the contest, en route to a 67-58 victory over the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon in Worthington Arena.
The win was the fifth consecutive for the Bobcats, and the first victory by a Big Sky Conference team over Utah Valley this season. The Wolverines had previously defeated Southern Utah, Portland State and Montana.
Despite shooting just 16.7% in the opening quarter, Montana State (6-5) relied on stingy defense holding Utah Valley (5-4) to 20% from the floor. Both teams improved its shooting in the second stanza and entered intermission knotted at 22-all.
“I was really pleased with the first half,” said Ellen Kreighbaum women’s head basketball coach Tricia Binford. “We executed the game plan very well. We didn’t have some shots fall, but we were right in the game because of consistent defensive play. That was the first complete defensive game we’ve had this season.”
MSU took its largest lead of the third quarter at the 6:07 mark on a basket by Gabby Mocchi. Utah Valley closed the margin to 43-40 following a pair of free throws by Josie Williams heading into the final period.
Leading 48-47 with 8:19 remaining, Bobcat point-guard Darian White took over scoring seven straight points. A pair of free throws by Kola Bad Bear capped MSU’s 9-0 run, giving the Cats a 10-point advantage with 6:11 left.
Utah Valley trimmed the deficit to four points with 3:27 remaining, but an old-fashion three-point play from Leia Beattie gave MSU the cushion it needed to close out the game.
Montana State shot 60% from the field in the second half, including 63.6% in the final frame. The Bobcats also went seven-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second half, as well.
“This was the most consistent we’ve been in our roles,” Binford said. “And the outcome took care of itself because of doing things right.
“We talked at halftime about how our defense had kept us in the game, and that we were going to get hot in the second,” she added.
For the second straight game MSU was led by Bad Bear. The Billings product posted a team-high 17 points, connecting on seven-of-10 from the field. Also in double figures were White and Beattie with 14 points, apiece.
Utah Valley was led by Williams with 22 points and eight rebounds. The Wolverines held a 38-26 advantage under the glass. Mocchi guided the Bobcats with seven rebounds.
MSU hosts Seattle University on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m.