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MSU Billings women overcome slow start, top Kutztown 66-55

MSUB WBB Kunkel 21.png
Posted at 7:48 AM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 09:48:05-05

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Shaking off a rough start on Sunday night at Alterowitz Gym, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team rallied to beat Kutztown University 66-55 in the finale of the D2CCA Tip Off Classic at the Trailhead.

Taryn Shelley completed her all-tournament, three-game performance with team highs of 17 points and seven rebounds, and fellow all-tournament selection Cariann Kunkel caught fire in the fourth quarter to finish with 15 points and five rebounds.

The Yellowjacket overcame a first half in which they scored just 26 points, and a deficit of as much as 11 points, slowly chipping away in the second half before finishing with their foot on the gas. “I’m just proud of our program, because sometimes you have to find a way to win when you’re not at your best,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Tonight, when it mattered the most, we were at our best.”

MSUB improved to 2-1 on the season with the victory, while Kutztown slipped to 1-2 after its final game of the tournament. Abbey Hearn led the Golden Bears with 15 points while Alexis Smith hit three of her team’s five 3-pointers to finish with 13 points.

The Yellowjackets got off to a 5-0 lead at the outset of the game, and after a jumper by Shelley the advantage grew to 11-6 midway through the first quarter. Smith connected on back-to-back threes however, which kicked off a 16-0 run as MSUB went ice cold and didn’t score for almost eight full minutes moving into the second quarter. A trey from Kunkel at the 8:51 mark in the second finally snapped the slump, but the Bears maintained an eight-point lead going into halftime up 34-26. “It wasn’t a great effort by us in the first half, and they were just out-playing us,” said Woodin. “I thought we really passed the ball well in the second half. We got the ball inside to Cariann and Taryn, and we played some really good basketball down the stretch.”

The defining moment in the game came at the 7:42 mark in the third quarter and MSUB down by 10, with a five-player substitution for the Yellowjackets sparking the comeback. Natalie Andreas had four points and four rebounds, Dyauni Boyce hit a key three, and Skylar Patton hit a jumper all over the next five minutes to bring it to a one-possession game with MSUB down 41-38.

Shelley finished the quarter with a three-point play, which signaled the start of a 16-3 run as MSUB found its groove and burst ahead to a 56-48 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Yellowjackets finished out the night emphatically after that, with back-to-back layups from Danielle Zahn and Shayla Montague putting the game out of reach at 62-50 with 1:27 to go.

Montague and Zahn each finished with seven points, while the former added four assists. Kortney Nelson had five rebounds, three steals, and two points in 24 solid minutes off the bench. “Our bench helped us a lot tonight, and they really sparked us,” Woodin said. “They went on a run, and everybody just caught on from there. We have a lot of players this year who are really effective. We started to wear them down inside, and our players executed. Post entry passing is not easy, but we were accurate and we only had four turnovers in the second half.”

MSUB finished the game shooting 42.6 percent overall (23-for-54), while making 5 of 14 threes (35.7 percent) and 15 of 17 free throws (88.2 percent). Kutztown meanwhile shot 40.0 percent (20-for-50), while hitting at just 23.8 percent from 3-point range (5-for-21) and making 10 of 11 free throws (90.9 percent). All-tournament selection Casey Remolde finished with eight points, three rebounds, and two blocks for the visitors, and Zara Zerman added eight points including a pair of threes.

After committing 11 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, MSUB righted the ship with just four giveaways in the second half. MSUB also commanded the glass to a tune of 36-25 in the rebounding department.

The Yellowjackets hit the road for the Holy Names Classic, taking place in Oakland, Calif. MSUB takes on Holy Names University on Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific/3 p.m. Mountain, and San Francisco State on Saturday at noon Pacific/1 p.m. Mountain. Live coverage for next week’s games will be available online here. [msubsports.com]