BOZEMAN — For three seasons, Mikayla Ferenz and Taylor Pierce have ripped nets across the Big Sky Conference, taking advantage of the utterly liberal green light provided them by Idaho head coach Jon Newlee.
On Thursday night in Bozeman, the UI senior duo known as the “Splash Sisters” gave Tricia Binford one final reminder of just how lethal they are from distance.
Pierce, already the Big Sky Conference’s all-time leader in career 3-point makes, poured in eight more triples on the way to a game-high 28 points. Ferenz, the league’s preseason MVP who also has Natalie Doma’s career scoring record in her sights, added 24 points and hit six from beyond the arc. All told, Idaho hit 16 of its 42 3-point attempts on the way to an 82-66 win in front of 1,558 at Brick Breedin Fieldhouse.
“Pierce and Ferenz had fantastic nights and we did not do a good job of forcing contested shots,” said Binford, Montana State’s 14th-year head coach said following her team falling to 3-2 in Big Sky play, 8-7 overall. “There were some that they hit that were contested, too. They are too good of shooters to get rhythm looks.
“We had some breakdowns internally and we need to do a better job against those two. They are on the scouting report for a reason. Our defense just suffered. And when you are not getting stops, it’s hard to get out and run and do the things you want to do on the offensive side as well.”
Pierce, a 5-foot-7 gunner from Carlsbad, California, hit 137 3-pointers last season, the second-highest single-season total in the history of Division I women’s basketball. She entered the season as the league’s all-time leader in career 3s and had made 19 in league play already.
Thursday, she shot 19 from beyond the arc and made eight, giving her 54 triples this season and 364 in her bold career.
Ferenz, a 5-foot-10 wing who has led the league in scoring two straight seasons, tied the league’s single-season scoring record with 742 points. Ferenz stroked 129 triples last season, the second-most in league history and a top-5 total in the country. After Thursday, she has made 15 triples in league play, 46 for the season and 339 in her career, the second-most behind only her teammate.
Ferenz’s 24 points pushes her to 2,032 points, 264 short of tying Doma (Idaho State, 2004-2008) for the all-time scoring record. Ferenz is averaging 22.5 points per game this season and has at least 16 guaranteed games left in her senior year,
Together, the unconscious pair shoots whenever even a hint of daylight shows itself. They combined for 34 attempts from beyond the arc at the Brick as Idaho moved to 4-1 in Big Sky play, 7-7 overall.
“We knew what was coming,” said MSU junior center Blaire Braxton, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. “I don’t think their style of game had much influence. It was just us sticking to the details and doing the things we know how to do every day but we didn’t.
“We knew the scouting report, we knew what we were supposed to do. We let them get comfortable and that was an issue tonight.”
Montana State found an advantage with junior Oliana Squires running high pick-and-rolls on the way to 15 points and nine assists. Braxton and Madeline Smith (11 points) combined to shoot 12-of-21 from the floor as the Bobcats scored 40 points in the paint.
But Idaho clamped down on MSU leading scorer Claire Lundberg, holding the Seton Hall transfer to nine points on 4-of-14 shooting. The senior entered the game averaging 18.3 points per game but made just one of her five shots from beyond the arc.
Montana State converted 43.3 percent of its shots from inside the arc but missed 16 of its 20 attempts from 3-point land. Martha Kuderer, MSU’s third-leading scorer (10.2 ppg) behind Lundberg and Squires, did not score.
“It’s a tough night when they hit 16 of them and we didn’t really shoot well from the perimeter,” Binford said. “We are going to have to knock down some shots to give us a little more balance because I think our interior is doing a great job. But we need to get that floor balance from the outside.”
Montana State takes on defending Big Sky champion Northern Colorado, who is out to a 4-0 start in league play despite Kamie Ethridge’s off-season departure to Washington State. Led by reigning Big Sky MVP Savannah Smith (17.9 points per game), the Bears come to Bozeman Monday at 9-4 overall.
Editors note: Interviews and observations by Brooks Nuanez – Skyline Sports.
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.