Montana State women find rhythm, beat Weber State in Big Sky tourney

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BOISE, Idaho — The Montana State women's basketball team overcame a slow start to race past Weber State in the Big Sky Conference tournament quarterfinal round on Tuesday evening at Idaho Central Arena.

Montana State trailed 31-19 midway through the second quarter but went on a 14-0 run and took a 36-33 lead into the break thanks to a strong first-half performance from Kola Bad Bear. The Bobcats never trailed again as Darian White then completely took over in the second half for MSU.

Photos: Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal round for UM, MSU

White finished with 22 points, all in the second half, and added six assists while Bad Bear had a game-high 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Taylor Janssen added 14 points for the Bobcats.

"I'm going to use a Danny Sprinkle (quote) when he says coaches win in the preseason and players win when you hit February and March and we just sometimes coaches we get in the way and we should just let kids shine and play to their strengths," MSU coach Tricia Binford said. "We think that this team has a lot of things going a lot of special things and we were able to see those today."

Montana State shot 27.8% from the field in the first quarter but improved that to 61.5% in the second quarter as they built their comeback. MSU finished shooting 47.5% from the field and went 8 for 20 from deep.

"Honestly, it's just the confidence part and just telling myself it's going in and having that next play mentality and just really hounding in on it," Bad Bear said. "I'm a very emotional player as you can see and I get in my head a lot and just trying to let things go right away and focus on the next play really helped."

"I felt that we shifted and adjusted to what they did," White added. "We tried getting it into the post. We knew Kola was hitting so kicking it in if we could, attacking them and just doing anything we could based off of reading their defense."

Rebounding was the biggest obstacle for MSU against Weber State as the Wildcats finished with a 44 to 25 advantage on the boards. MSU did rack up 15 steals as they forced the Wildcats into 22 turnovers.

The Bobcats are making their fourth semifinal game appearance in the last six tournaments. They will play No. 6 Idaho at 8 p.m. on Wednesday for a shot at the championship game.

No. 8 Northern Colorado and No. 4 Northern Arizona will play in the other women's semifinal.

"Lot of conversation of weathering the storm," Binford said. "When you have the bye, you have a little more butterflies that first time on the court whereas the other team played (Monday). Defensively we had a lot of lost situations and then we kind of regrouped going into that second quarter and I thought the kids responded extremely well so regardless of all the other outcomes this was about us just kind of being in the moment right now and being tough for each other and I think the team player team basketball today."