CHENEY, Wash. – The Montana State defense put up one of its best performances of the season limiting Eastern Washington to just 15 points in the second half, en route to a 61-47 win over the Eagles on Thursday night at Reese Court.
Montana State (12-10, 7-5), who dropped an 89-87 overtime decision to Eastern Washington (5-15, 4-7) on Jan. 19 in Worthington Arena, held the Eagles 42-points under its total from the first encounter. In addition, Violet Kapri Morrow, who went off for a career-high 37 points against the Bobcats three weeks ago, was held to 18 points, including just seven in the second half.
“Our defense really stepped-up in the second half,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “We grinded this one out defensively. Blaire (Braxton) had a great night under the boards and Halle (Wright) and Gabby (Mocchi) executed their defensive assignments on (Violet) Kapri Morrow.”
Eastern Washington held a three-point lead after the opening 10-minutes, but Montana State turned the table in the second stanza as MSU’s freshmen trio of Wright, Mocchi and Kamden Hilborn posted ten of the Bobcats’17 points.
Montana State held a 34-32 advantage at intermission.
EWU took a 39-35 lead at the 5:50 mark of the third quarter, but again the Bobcats answered with a 9-0 run the close out the frame sparked by four consecutive points by Braxton to give MSU a five-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Juniors Martha Kuderer and Oliana Squires took over for Montana State in the final frame. Squires scored seven points in the first three-minutes of the quarter to push the Bobcat lead to 53-41 with 6:56 left. Kuderer secured the MSU victory going six-of-six from the free throw line. Her layup with 3:42 remaining gave the Bobcats its biggest lead at 59-44.
“Oli (Squires) and Martha really got going offensively,” Binford said. “I thought we did a nice job closing out the game.”
Kuderer, who returned to the MSU line-up after missing two games, posted a team-high 16 points, including a seven-of-seven effort at the line. Squires also hit double-digits with 13 points, while Madeline Smith chipped in eight and Hilborn with a season-best five.
Montana State won the battle of the boards out-rebounding the Eagles 40-31. Braxton pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds to give her 507 for her career, making her just the 24th MSU player to hit the 500-rebound plateau. Braxton currently sits 22nd on MSU’s all-time rebounding list.
Also contributing under the glass were Smith and Squires with seven and six rebounds, respectively.
For the game, MSU shot 40 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Bobcat defense held Eastern Washington to 29.1 percent from the floor, including just 15.4 percent in the second half.
Montana State plays at Idaho on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. (MT) in Moscow.
Press release courtesy of Tom Shulz – Montana State Sports Information. Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.