MSU traveled to Missoula last Saturday, Feb. 20, to rekindle its rivalry with the University of Montana. The two Big Sky Conference heavyweights came face-to-face for their final match-up of the regular season. The last time these two met up, it resulted in a Montana State win, riding off a second half rally to squash the Montana lead and take the W. Montana at the time had a losing Big Sky Conference record (4-5), but once a few weeks had passed, Montana State went into Missoula to do battle against a winning Griz roster who is now 9-5.
The first quarter saw the Bobcats fire out of the starting gate putting up six points on the scoreboard in just under three minutes. This lead was quickly overshadowed by Montana’s tough field play, forcing the Cats to work the ball into the paint where for the rest of the game they would score almost all of their points from. The Cats closed out the first quarter in the lead 14-10.
Poor shooting against Montana in the second quarter dug the MSU women’s basketball team into a hole that was too deep for them to climb out of. For the entire game, the Bobcats made only 35 percent of field goals attempted compared to Montana’s 41 percent. The Cats severely struggled to connect outside of the arc, completing only nine percent of three pointers. It was the Bobcats second worst shooting day of the conference season. Junior forward Riley Nordgaard can be credited with MSU’s only three point completion; she also was second to senior forward Jasmine Holmes for total rebounds with seven. Montana State valiantly fought back in the fourth and outscored the Griz 26-21, but sadly this wasn’t enough to make up for the massive lead that Montana garnered in the second quarter.
Montana State grabbed its only lead of the second half on a pair of free throws from junior guard Peyton Ferris with 25 seconds to play. But Montana’s junior guard Haley Vining’s three-pointer with 14 seconds to play restored Montana’s lead, and the Grizzlies held on to hand MSU a 70-66 loss.
MSU Head Coach Tricia Binford said MSU’s first half dry spell ultimately spelled doom for the Cats’ chances of winning. “We had only eight points in the second quarter,” she said. “We need to be able to put points on the board. When we don’t make shots we can’t play at our tempo, and shots just didn’t fall for us.”
MSU’s scoring machine grinded to a complete stop, getting outshot 22-8. This deficit would haunt the Cats for the rest of the game, playing catch-up to an agile Montana squad. Although the second half saw great improvements in performance across the boards, the Cats never managed to climb out of the hole, and losy 70-66. This is their first loss in four weeks, running out a six game winning streak.
This loss will not stop the Cats and their claim for the first seed in the Big Sky Conference, posting a fantastic record of 19-6 overall, and 12-2 in league play. The Bobcats host Weber State and Idaho this upcoming weekend on Feb. 25 and 27 at 7:05 p.m. and 2:05 p.m., respectively