Big Sky Basketball Scores & Highlights, Thursday 2/26 - News, Sports and Weather

Big Sky Basketball Scores & Highlights, Thursday 2/26

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Montana State Women Upset Eagles

Montana State head coach Tricia Binford challenged her starters to set the tone for the game, and her bench to be a factor when they entered the game, during her pregame speech. Her Bobcat squad responded, handing the tenth-year mentor a nice birthday present in the form of a 63-53 win over Eastern Washington – the Big Sky's hottest team, Thursday night in Worthington Arena.

The Montana State (13-14, 7-9) starters combined for 39 points, while the Bobcats bench out-scored Eastern Washington (17-9, 10-5) 24-5 to move into eighth place in the Big Sky standings and one step closer to securing a postseason tournament berth.

MSU opened up a 13-point advantage at the 6:16 mark of the opening period following a Peyton Ferris old-fashion three-point play. The Bobcats entered intermission with a 32-23 cushion.

In the second half, Montana State expanded its margin to 18-points on four occasions, the last coming with 8:41 remaining after a jumper via freshman Hannah Caudill. Eastern Washington rattled off a 16-2 run over the next six-minutes to pull to within 53-49 with 2:38 left.

The Bobcats then went seven-of-eight from the free throw line and received a rally-killing triple from Jackie Elliott with 36-seconds remaining to secure the win.

“The thing that jumps out is our positive assist-to-turnover ratio,” Binford said. “That allowed us to do what we wanted against their pressure defense. I thought we also did a nice job contesting shots, especially from beyond the three-point arc.”

Eastern Washington entered the game shooting a Big Sky Conference best 45 percent from the field. Montana State held the Eagles to 33 percent for the game, including an icy 16.7 percent from long distance.

Ferris, a product of Twin Bridges, guided the Bobcats with 16 points coming off the bench. Jasmine Hommes and Kallie Durham added nine points, apiece, while Alexa Dawkins and Elliott added eight and seven, respectively.

“I really liked our balance,” Binford said. “When we get everyone involved, good things happen.”

Also contributing to the Bobcat attack was point-guard Lindsay Stockton, who dished out a game-high nine assists, while adding three steals.

EWU won the battle of the boards, out-rebounding MSU by a slim 42-39 advantage. Ferris led the Bobcats under the glass with eight rebounds, while Elliott and Stockton chipped in six, each.

The Eagles were led by Hayley Hodgins with 22 points and nine rebounds.

Montana State will host Idaho on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Worthington Arena.

Lady Griz clinch share of Big Sky title

Montana won its 20th game of the season and clinched at least a share of the Big Sky Conference championship Thursday night with an 81-68 victory over Idaho at Dahlberg Arena. The bigger prize -- hosting the conference tournament -- will require a little more work.

Alycia Sims scored 14 points off the bench, and McCalle Feller went 4 for 4 from 3-point range and scored 18 points to lead the Lady Griz (20-7, 13-3 BSC) over the Vandals (12-14, 6-9 BSC) in front of a season-high crowd of 3,741.

The win gives Montana 20 wins for the 30th time in 37 years under coach Robin Selvig and the program its 24th conference championship.

To host the eight-team Big Sky Conference tournament in two weeks, the Lady Griz will need to pick up one more win, which could come as early as Saturday, when Montana hosts Eastern Washington (17-9, 10-5 BSC) at 2 p.m.

Montana led for more than 35 minutes in its win over Idaho Thursday, but the lead felt comfortable for a fraction of that time.

A 10-point first-half lead turned into a slim 32-30 edge at the half. And though Montana led the final 16:52 of the second half, it was a one-possession game with 10 minutes to go and not decided until the final two minutes.

Feller and Sims both went 4 for 4 in the second half -- Feller 3 for 3 from 3-point range -- to help Montana, which scored 49 second-half points on 53.8 percent shooting, pull away down the stretch.

“That's a good win,” said Selvig. “Idaho is a good team, and they played well. They are hard to guard, especially if they are shooting it well from the perimeter. We were up 10 in the first half, and the next thing you know you look up and you're up only two at the half.”

Idaho shot 30.8 percent in the second half and connected on just 6 of its 23 3-point tries, but a number of those were long shots forced late in the game.

“We worked awfully hard on defense in the second half,” said Selvig. “And then we came up with enough kids who gave us some offense.”

A season-high five players scored in double figures for Montana, which defeated Idaho for the 21st straight time in Missoula. In addition to Feller's 18 and Sims' 14, Maggie Rickman scored 13, Carly Selvig 11 and Kayleigh Valley 10.

Sims hit six of her seven shots and added eight rebounds in just 13 minutes of action. For Selvig, who went 5 for 8, it was her best scoring night since putting up 13 on Charlotte back in November.

Noticeably absent from the scoring leaders was Kellie Rubel, who was quietly fantastic while playing 36 minutes. She took just six shots and scored six points, but she finished with seven assists and one turnover while helping the Lady Griz shoot better than 40 percent for the seventh time in nine games.

“Kellie didn't get shots tonight, but the mark of an outstanding player is that she didn't take shots that weren't there,” said Selvig. “She got people the ball, and she played good defense.”

Montana built a 26-16 lead in the first half, only to see it evaporate under a flurry of 3-point shots by the Vandals in the closing minutes.

A 3-pointer by Stacey Barr, who led both teams with 24 points, early in the second half gave Idaho a 33-32 lead, and two minutes later Barr put the Vandals up 35-34. It would be their final lead of the game.

Rubel answered with her only basket of the game, a 3-pointer that gave Montana a 37-35 lead, and Feller and Sims hit eight of UM's next nine baskets to maintain the advantage.

Barr tried to rally her team midway through the second half with back-to-back threes, but both times Feller answered with a 3-pointer of her own on Montana's next possession, a fun back-and-forth by two players who have connected 131 times from the arc this season.

Feller's second answer put Montana up 59-53, and any further comeback by the Vandals was hamstrung by their effort from the free throw line, where they were a dreadful 8 for 17 in the second half.

The win was Montana's 24th in its last 25 games at Dahlberg Arena against a Big Sky Conference opponent.

Eastern Washington lost 63-53 at Montana State Thursday night, giving Montana a two-game cushion on both the Eagles and Sacramento State (12-14, 10-5 BSC). Both of those teams have three regular-season games remaining. Montana has two.

Lurking a half game behind the Eagles and Hornets in fourth place is Northern Colorado (16-11, 10-6 BSC). The Bears became the fourth team to clinch a spot in the Big Sky tournament with an 88-66 victory at Southern Utah (12-13, 5-10 BSC) Thursday night, the Bears' sixth consecutive win.

In the only other Big Sky game Thursday, Northern Arizona (12-14, 8-7 BSC) won 72-68 in double overtime at home over North Dakota (17-11, 9-7 BSC). UND, which has lost four of its last five games, needs one more victory to clinch a tournament spot.

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