Cats take over top spot in conference

The Montana State women’s basketball team faced two close contests on the road this past week that resulted in back-to-back wins, giving the Cats its 19th win of the season, and their 12th overall Big Sky Conference win. This records gives the Cats top standing in the Conference over teams like Eastern Washington (11-2) and Idaho (10-3). These wins have great significance elsewhere as they mark MSU Head Coach Tricia Binford’s 100th Big Sky Conference win since her coaching debut 11 years ago.

The Bobcats rode down to Flagstaff, Arizona to face NAU for their first game of the week. Despite NAU’s weak record (6-17, 2-10), their aggressive board play gave the Cats a run for their money. Points in the paint, total rebounds and field goal percentage were all nearly tied. Every type of play of the game was tight, and if weren’t for  MSU’s 13-3 final run, the Cats wouldn’t have been able to break away from NAU in the middle of the fourth quarter. The game featured eight ties and five lead changes, most of these occurring in the third period. Senior forward Jasmine Hommes and senior guard Lindsay Stockton each finished with a team-high 19 points.  Hommes went 8-of-14 from the field and added seven rebounds. Stockton went three-of-four from 3-point range and dished out a game-high seven assists, as well. The win, coupled with North Dakota’s 72-69 victory over Eastern Washington, put the Bobcats in sole possession of the top spot in the Big Sky Conference.

“It was a tough game to get into any kind of a flow,” Binford said. “It was hard to establish a tempo, but I’m proud of the kids and their resiliency. Everyone stepped-up and just made plays to finish the game against a really tough opponent.”

After Thursday’s nail biter against NAU, the Cats headed back up to Utah to face the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The first quarter saw the Cats fail to establish any flow in the offense, much in part due to SU’s tenacious crashing defense. The Thunderbirds severely outrebounded the Cats (39-50), but this is coupled with allowing 12 takeaways, overshadowing their dominant board performance and giving the Cats more possession time. “Southern Utah was crashing all over and we had no answer for them on the glass,” Binford said. “Give Southern Utah credit, they played hard and hit shots. It was a tough first half.”

In the second half, the Cats were able to get a grip on the offense, shooting 44 percent in the field. The Cats began to break away and never looked back, never forfeiting the lead back to SUU to finish the game 87-66.
Montana State earned a well deserved break this week before facing rival Montana in Missoula Feb. 20 at 7:05 p.m.