Game Recap

Bobcat women win seventh straight by cruising at EWU


A team that entered the season with the youngest roster in Division I now looks like the defending Big Sky Conference champions with a legitimate champion to repeat. 

The Montana State women’s basketball team looked inconsistent at best during a 2-2 start to Big Sky play. But after a slugfest split with Northern Colorado in Bozeman, dynamic MSU sophomore guard Darian White said she felt a click internally within a team that has committed itself to playing five freshmen substantial minutes in a rotation that also relies heavily on three sophomores and has just one senior on the roster. 

Following a heartbreaking loss in the final minutes of the game at Portland State, Montana State turned a major corner. A month later, the Bobcats are the hottest team in the Big Sky Conference. 

On Thursday night in Cheney, Washington, MSU used yet another torrid start to earn an early cushion before putting on a display of depth en route to a 73-42 win over Eastern Washington. 

The visitors jolted to a 27-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to their seventh straight victory. 

Montana State, a squad that went 19-1 in league play a season ago as part of tying a school record with 25 total wins, now sits at 9-2 in league play. MSU is 12-5 overall and is into second place in the Big Sky standings following Idaho State’s 63-58 win over Idaho on Thursday night in Moscow. 

That result in the Battle of the Domes kept the Bengals undefeated (11-0) in league play and atop the standings. The loss drops Idaho to 10-3, a game behind MSU in the loss column. 

During MSU’s current winning streak, the Bobcats have used fast starts, smothering defensive efforts, excellent depth, selfless play and a sharp mental focus to win games by an average of 27 points. 

MSU freshman K.J. Limardo paced the Bobcats in the opening quarter with eight points as MSU shot 55.6 percent from floor field, while the limiting Eastern Washington (6-12, 5-8) to just 14.3 percent. 

Montana State freshman forward Katelynn Limardo (11) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

Neither team could find any rhythm in the second quarter as both squads scored six points, apiece, yet Montana State led 33-12 at intermission. 

“I loved the way we started,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford in a press release. “We had great energy. But then we had an awful second quarter both offensively and defensively. We got too stagnant and we were doing things that are not part of our identity.”

 MSU opened the second half with back-to-back baskets by Gabby Mocchi and built a 30-point cushion on an Ashley Van Sickle three-pointer with 3-minutes, 36-seconds left in the period. EWU closed out the quarter on a 16-4 run, cutting its deficit to 18 points.

“We let Eastern get 20 points and they outscored us in the third quarter,” Binford said. “That’s a major concern. We need to raise our standard and lock in for a full 40 minutes. We had too many inconsistent possessions.”

White got MSU back on track to open the final frame, posting six points, three steals, one assist and one offensive rebound in a span of two minutes to put the game out of reach. White flirted with her first triple-double recording 16 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven steals. She also dished out a team-best four assists.

“Darian had an outstanding game,” Binford said. “Overall, I thought our backcourt did an outstanding job disrupting Eastern Washington on the defensive end and setting the tone offensively. Both Tori (Martel) and Ashley (Van Sickle) did a tremendous job, as well.”

Martell matched White for scoring honors with 16 points, including a pair of triples. Van Sickle continued her strong play lately, scoring 10 points and knocking down 4-of-5 shots from the floor. 

“I loved the way we responded in the fourth quarter, with Darian leading the way,” Binford said. “But we have to learn that we can’t be in-and-out. Eastern Washington is too good and will knock down their shots and have a chip on their shoulders on Saturday afternoon.”

Grace Kirshner paced EWU with 12 points, including hitting three 3-pointers.  

MSU and Eastern Washington will finish its series on Saturday with a tip scheduled for 1 p.m. MST. 

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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