BOZEMAN — On March 12, 2020 the Big Sky Conference canceled the men's and women’s postseason tournaments. The Montana State women’s basketball team, the 2020 regular-season champion, was set to play in the championship game, potentially poised to win it all and go to the NCAA Tournament.
Now a year later, the Bobcats are back and have won 11 of their past 12 regular-season games.
“That was a really tough situation for everybody last year," said Bobcats head coach Tricia Binford, who was named Big Sky Conference co-coach of the year Monday morning. "It definitely brings back the feelings of those things, but at the same time you’re trying to separate because it's a brand-new season, starting with protocols in this regard.”
The Bobcats have a bye in the first round, but will play Tuesday night at 8 p.m. against the winner of the first-round game between the University of Montana and Sacramento State. Over the weekend, MSU's biggest focus has been on itself.
“For the most part it’s the matter of being your best self right now, limiting mistakes on the board and just being every possession at an elite level so that’s what we want to focus on, regardless of opponent,” said Binford.
Over the weekend, sophomore Darian White took home first-team all-Big Sky Conference honors and defensive player of the year. White averaged 14.8 points per game this season, while swiping 2.9 steals per matchup.
“Just knowing how much I love defense and how we’re a defensive team really just motivates me to keep grinding and working really hard on that end of the floor,” said White.
Senior Tori Martell averaged 13 points per game this season and was named second-team all-Big Sky. After losing integral members to graduation last year, it’s been the leadership of Martell and White to guide the young MSU squad to where the Bobcats are right now.
“They really took this team on their backs from Day One on what it looks like to be a champion on a daily basis, how you practice, how you prepare, how you show up, how you do it consistently,” Binford said.
Martell is hoping that all the hard work has paid off and the team can win the conference championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
“It would just be an amazing way to cap off my career, my everything, and I think we can do it," said the senior. "I think we prepared and put so much work into this season that we really deserve, and we’ve worked so hard and I’m really excited to see how this week goes.”