Analysis

Despite loss, Bobcat women claim share of crown

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Montana State still controls its own destiny, but the Bobcat women could not secure an outright Big Sky Conference championship in Greeley on Friday night.

Idaho State, the Big Sky’s ninth-place team, defeated second-place Eastern Washington 71-62 in Pocatello on Wednesday night, dropping the Eagles to 13-4 in league play. A win would secure the first outright Big Sky title in Montana State history. But Northern Colorado drilled 13 3-pointers and forced 17 MSU turnovers in an 80-73 win Wednesday.

“We had too many turnovers and gave up too many offensive boards,” MSU 11th-year head coach Tricia Binford said. “That’s the second game in a row we’ve been out-worked on the glass and that is something we need to address before Friday afternoon. We can’t give teams extra possessions.”

Montana State still secured at least a share of the Big Sky crown with the EWU loss. MSU can win the outright title with a win at North Dakota on Friday afternoon. An MSU loss coupled with an EWU win at Northern Colorado would give the Eagles the outright title and the top seed in the Big Sky Tournament. An Eagle loss of any sort gives Montana State the top seed, win or lose.

Northern Colorado notched 22 assists on 27 field goals, including 13 in 27 attempts from beyond the arc. Kourteney Zadina drilled 5-of-11 triples and Kyleigh Hiser came off the bench to nail 4-of-8 from deep. Zadina scored a team-high 20 points, Hiser scored 18 and Kianna Williams (12), Rebecca Howell (10) and Savannah Scott (10) finished in double figures. Katie Longwell dished out five assists and UNC finished with 12 turnovers.

“Northern Colorado shoots it well in their gym,” Binford said. “We lost some of their kids defensively, and give them credit for knocking down the shots.”

UNC hit six first-quarter 3-pointers and nine triples in the first half to take a 36-31 lead to the locker room as MSU committed 12 first-half miscues. The Bobcats fell behind 46-36 midway through the third quarter but ended the frame on a 16-4 run to close the frame with 52-50 lead.

A Lindsay Stockton 3-pointer to open the final quarter gave MSU a five-point cushion, but the Bears countered with five straight points to even the contest. The score was tied four times down the stretch before UNC went on a 7-0 run over the course a one-minute, 36-second span to take a 70-63 lead with 3:09 remaining. MSU would get no closer than five points in the final three minutes.

“I’m proud of the fight the kids showed to come back from a 10-point deficit,” Binford said. “We still have a lot to play for and we want to enter the tournament on a positive note.”

Northern Colorado moved to 8-9 in conference with the win, alone in eighth place with one regular season game remaining before the Big Sky Tournament in Reno next week. Idaho posted a 77-70 win at Weber State to move to 13-4, tied with EWU for second. North Dakota, a 73-61 winner over a surging Montana squad — the Lady Griz came to Grand Forks on a seven-game winning streak — to take sole possession of fourth at 12-5 in league, a game ahead of UM. Weber is 10-7, alone in sixth. Sacramento State, an 82-74 winner at Southern Utah (1-16), is alone in seventh at 9-8. ISU is now 7-10, still alive for eighth but at worst the ninth seed. Portland State beat Northern Arizona to tie for 10th at 2-15.

Montana State senior Jasmine Hommes poured in 25 points to move over 1,400 for her career. She now has 1,414 points, moving ahead of Sarah Flock for seventh on MSU’as all-time list. She is five points behind Cass Bauer for sixth and 27 points away from Sarah Balian for fifth. Four players — Kathleen McLaughlin, Katie Bussey, Vicki Heebner and Katie Burrows — have scored more than 1,500 points for the Bobcats.

Montana State shot 53.7 percent from the floor as Hommes hit 9-of-15. Junior Riley Nordgaard hit 8-of-14, including three from beyond the arc in scoring 19 points. Lindsay Stockton hit 5-of-6 shots, scored 12 points and dished out five of MSU’s 16 assists. The Bobcats hit 59 percent of their first-half shots and 39 percent of their shots from 3-point land overall. But Delany Junkermier, Hannah Caudill and Alexa Dawkins committed 10 combined turnovers.

MSU forward Peyton Ferris averaged 27.5 points per game last week to earn Big Sky Player of the Week. She fell ill earlier this week and did not leave Bozeman with the team on Tuesday. She caught flight to Colorado on Wednesday and played 23 minutes Wednesday night, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds.

Montana State secured just three offensive rebounds while UNC corralled 12 as the Bears built a 37-30 rebounding advantage in a game that saw 10 ties and 10 lead changes.

MSU plays at UND on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Fightings Hawks host a hockey game on Friday night. The Bobcats will stay in Fargo on Friday night and fly out of Fargo to Reno late Saturday night. Montana State will play its first tournament game on Wednesday.

UNC (13-14) hosts Montana on Friday night.

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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