By TOM SCHULZ
Montana State Sports Information
OGDEN, Utah – Montana State continued its mastery of Weber State, defeating the Wildcats for the 19th consecutive time with an 83-68 decision over WSU in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams Thursday night in the Dee Events Center here.
For the second straight contest, Montana State (8-3, 1-0) used a dominant fourth quarter performance to secure the victory. Leading by two points heading into the final frame, the Bobcats scored five straight coming out of the break to take a 61-54 advantage on a layup by true freshman center Blaire Braxton layup.
Weber State (6-6, 0-1) whittled the lead to 66-62 with 6:03 remaining, before the Bobcats went on a 7-0 run over the next four minutes sparked by a Hannah Caudill triple and four points via junior Delany Junkermier. MSU went eight-of-eight from the line in the final minute to win its second straight league opener.
“This was a strong road win against a very talented, high-pressure team,” said MSU 12th year head coach Tricia Binford. “I’m proud of the way our kids fought and closed out the game. Road wins in the Big Sky Conference are rare and it was a total team effort, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Caudill guided the Bobcats with a career-high 20 points, which included a 4-of-7 effort from 3-point range and a 6-of-6 performance at the free throw line. In addition, the Spokane, Washington product recorded four assists, two rebounds and a blocked shot.
“Hannah had a terrific night running the team,” Binford said. “She shot the ball really well and was aggressive the entire game.”
Aside from Caudill’s performance, the Bobcats had four other player finish in double digits, including senior Riley Nordgaard with 16, Junkermier with 13, sophomore Annika Lai with 13 and true freshman Madeline Smith with 10.
Lai, a sophomore from Boulder, Colorado came off the bench to record her first career double-double pacing the Bobcats under the boards with a game and career-high 10 rebounds. Her 13-point effort matched a career-high set against Utah State earlier this season. For the game, Lai connected on 4-of-4 from the field and was 5-of-6 at the line. She also added two assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
“Our bench continues to be a strength,” Binford said. “The bench outscored them by 13 points. Annika had a strong performance attacking the rim, and Madeline came in the first half and scored the ball well.”
For the game, the Bobcats shot 54 percent from the field, including 64 percent in the third quarter, while holding Weber State to 37 percent from the floor. MSU held a commanding 46-26 advantage on the boards. The Bobcats won for the seventh straight time despite senior Peyton Ferris, the preseason Big Sky MVP, scoring just six points in 12 minutes while battling foul trouble all night. Ferris hit 16 of 17 shots against Weber State and scored 33 points in a 91-72 whipping of the Wildcats in Bozeman last season.
Emily Drake scored 23 points and hit four 3-pointers to lead Weber State.
MSU will play at Idaho State on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Reed Gym.