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Montana State women scrap out OT fight over Northern Colorado in Big Sky quarterfinals

Natalie Picton
Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 11, 2024

BOISE, Idaho — With a big smile, Madison Hall summarized Montana State's postseason opener Monday afternoon.

"Can't count us out. Can't ever count us out," said Hall, a fifth-year senior from up the road in Parma, Idaho. "We're going to battle until the end."

And battle the Bobcats did. Fourth-seeded MSU scrapped out a 47-44 quarterfinal victory over No. 5 seed Northern Colorado in the quarterfinal round of the Big Sky Conference women's basketball tournament at Idaho Central Arena.

Bobcat postgame: Tricia Binford, Madison Hall, Katelynn Limardo discuss OT win over Northern Colorado

The game, frankly, was not pretty. Aside from the consistent loose-ball battles, both teams shot under 30% and combined for 41 turnovers. Specifically, MSU was outrebounded 50 to 28 and surrendered 18 offensive boards.

Still, the Bobcats survived.

"That game didn't make me any younger. Both teams struggled to put points on the board today," said Montana State coach Tricia Binford. "Great job by Northern Colorado. Tremendous defense today. I'm really proud of our kids' grittiness."

The Bobcats went without a 3-pointer until it truly mattered in crunch time. And they came from underclassmen.

With her team trailing 38-32 with 4:02 left, freshman Isobel Bunyan hit a 3 to pull the Cats within three. Later, sophomore Marah Dykstra cashed in from the arc with 3:11 left to make it a 42-40 game in favor of UNC.

Dykstra tied it 42-42 from the foul line with :25 seconds left to force OT.

The Bobcats went without a field goal in overtime but hit five free throws — three from Katelynn Limardo and two from Bunyan — to prevail.

UNC trailed by one late in OT and was inbounding the ball at midcourt, but an errant pass ended up going out of bounds. Bunyan then made it a three-point game from the line. UNC's last effort to tie it came after the horn sounded.

UNC closed with a 15-15 overall record. The Bobcats improved to 17-15.

"A gut-wrenching loss for us," Bears coach Kristen Mattio said. "It was a defensive battle, and we thought that it would be and we were going to be OK with that. It came down to one or two possessions, and it felt like we ran out of time."

Montana State advanced to face top-seeded Eastern Washington in the semifinals on Tuesday at noon Mountain time. The Bobcats lost their two regular-season meetings to EWU by a combined three points.

MSU lost 52-50 to Eastern Washington on March 2 at home.

"First thing for us is making sure we get our kids off their feet," Binford said. "We want to recover. It's back-to-back for us. That's a very familiar (team). I like the fact that we played recently so our kids can really focus in and move on to the next."