(Editor's note: Montana State athletics press release)
BOZEMAN—Coming off one of its most efficient offensive performances against Sacramento State on Saturday, Montana State hit a season low 29.4 percent from the field and a paltry 4-of-30 from beyond the arc yet still made enough shots from the free throw line to escape with an 82-81 win over MSU Billings in double overtime, Thursday night in Worthington Arena.
The game counted as a win for Montana State (5-5, 2-0), while MSU Billings (6-5, 1-1) used the contest as an exhibition.
“The message is we need to set the tone from the opening tip,” said women’s head basketball coach Tricia Binford. “It’s a start to finish concept. Our defense is our identity, and we were too inconsistent, and until we decide to bring it from that end of the floor from the start, then we’re going to have some challenging nights.”
MSU Billings got out to a six-point lead in the opening 10 minutes and despite seven points from junior guard Darian White, the Bobcats trailed the Yellowjackets 20-16 heading into the second frame.
After trailing by as much as seven in the second stanza, MSU used a 6-0 run to close out the half, taking a 36-34 advantage into intermission.
“We started a little tight,” Binford said. “And they hit some good shots and you could see them gaining confidence. In those situations, you just got to find a way to take the right shots. I thought we had a lot of great looks, but they were not falling.”
The Bobcats opened the second half with six unanswered points four of which came at the hands of Lexi Deden. Katelynn Limardo’s fastbreak layin at the 5:48 mark gave MSU its largest lead, 42-34, of the contest, but the Yellowjackets whittled the margin down to two going into the fourth quarter.
Neither team led by more than three points in the final frame and a Kola Bad Bear layup with 25-seconds left forced an extra period.
After trading baskets to begin the first overtime, MSUB’s Shayla Montague nailed a three-pointer to give the Yellowjackets a 73-69 advantage with 2:03 remaining. Two free throws by Limardo, followed by two from Bad Bear down the stretch evened the contest at 73-all, and White’s baseline jumper fell short to force a second overtime period.
In the final five-minutes the lead changed hands three times with the Yellowjackets owning an 81-80 lead with 41-seconds left following another Montague triple. With 15-seconds remaining, White hit a pull-up jumper to put MSU up one. Following a Yellowjacket timeout with eight seconds left, MSUB’s missed layup by Addison Gardner handed MSU the win in front of 1,196 spectators.
“My concern is that we weren’t getting consistent defensive stops,” Binford said. “You’re going to have nights offensively like that, and that’s where defense can save you, during those dry spells. We were just super flat outside a couple of kids.”
One player that shone bright was Bad Bear, who finished with a career-high 21 points and 17 rebounds. Thirteen of Bad Bear’s boards came off the offensive glass. The Billings product pulled down five offensive boards and added six points in the overtime periods to pace the Cats.
“Without Kola’s rebounding production, we wouldn’t have won the game,” Binford said. “She was a monster on the glass.”
White also posted a double-double with 22 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. In all, MSU outrebounded its sister school 60-49. Limardo was the third MSU player in double-digits, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.
MSU finished the night connecting on 28-32 from the line, while MSU Billings went 17-22. The Yellowjackets also connected on 12 three-pointers.
MSU Billings had four players in double-figures led by Cariann Kunkel with 24 points.
The Bobcats host Utah Valley on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Worthington Arena.