(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Taryn Shelley put together the most impressive performance of her freshman season, with a 25-point, 18-rebound double-double in Montana State University Billings’ 84-65 Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball win over the University of Alaska on Thursday night at Alterowitz Gym.
Shelley’s 18 boards were the most by a Yellowjacket player this season, and tied Kassidy Malcolm of Central Washington and Cici West of Seattle Pacific for the most in a game by any GNAC player in 2018-19.
Taylor Cunningham added 18 points, Vanessa Stavish had 16, and Jeanann Lemelin notched a career-high eight assists to lead the Yellowjackets. MSUB improved to 10-9 overall on the year, and kept pace in the conference standings as it is now 6-7 in league play.
“Our team played well and I thought we were more consistent tonight,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Everyone contributed to this victory. Defensively, we rebounded the ball much better than we have all year. That enabled us to get our transition offense going and is encouraging as it has been a problem area for us.”
The Yellowjackets out-rebounded the Nanooks 52-27, marking their best rebounding performance of the season by far. Kylie Wallace made 6 of 11 shots and led her team with 20 points, while Ashlie Blackburn put up a 15-point, 14-rebound double-double and added in five blocked shots. The Nanooks could not overcome a 32-point third quarter by MSUB, and dropped to 3-17 overall and 0-14 in conference play. Alaska’s GNAC winless drought extended to 36 straight games with Thursday’s defeat.
“Our third quarter was impressive, and we got some baskets through our defense while having nice offensive balance,” Woodin said. “I liked how we shared the ball and both Jeanann and Hannah (Collins) had some great finds tonight.”
The Yellowjackets carried a 36-29 advantage into the halftime break, and exploded out of the locker room with their highest-scoring quarter of the season so far. A 17-5 push by MSUB ate up the first five minutes of the third, during which Shelley had six points and Stavish had eight to help MSUB pull ahead to a 53-36 advantage.
After that, MSUB never led by less than 20 points the rest of the night. “Our posts played great offensively, as both Vanessa and Taryn were able to score from inside and out and I thought complimented each other nicely,” Woodin said. “Taylor hit some big threes for us as well.”
The Yellowjackets knocked down 11 of 29 threes on the night (37.9 percent), including personal bests of three from Shelley and four from Cunningham. Brina Hull was also effective in 19 minutes off the bench, as she hit 3 of 6 shots for nine points while matching her career high with seven rebounds.
MSUB overcame a back-and-forth opening 10 minutes, and relinquished the lead only twice during Thursday’s game. Overall the ‘Jackets shot 45.1 percent from the field (32-for-71), and made 9 of 14 free throws (64.3 percent). “Our start was good but give Fairbanks credit, as they hit some big threes and got back into the game in the second quarter,” Woodin commented. “Kylie Wallace played great for them and she is a tough person to guard because of her versatility.”
Alaska shot 35.8 percent on the night (19-for-53), including a mark of 7-for-19 from 3-point range (36.8 percent). The Nanooks converted 20 of 27 foul shots (74.1 percent), and limited their turnovers to just 10 on the evening.
MSUB meanwhile finished with a season-high 23 assists and a season-high 20 offensive rebounds, which led to 14 second-chance points. Hannah Collins matched her career high with eight assists on Thursday, while scoring seven points and grabbing a pair of rebounds in 23 minutes.
THE BUZZ: Shelley was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…her previous season bests were 19 points and 15 rebounds, both achieved on December 18, 2018 against Maryville…the last player to reach 18 rebounds in a game for MSUB was Alisha Breen, which she accomplished on January 11, 2018 against Northwest Nazarene…Lemelin’s previous high in assists was five, which she reached on November 29, 2018 at Simon Fraser…MSUB is now 55-14 all-time against Alaska and is 28-3 in games played at Alterowitz Gym…freshman Shannon Reny scored a season-high four points, grabbed two rebounds, and had her first-career block on Thursday.
COMING UP: MSUB faces a tough test on Saturday, when No. 10 and first-place University of Alaska Anchorage comes to town. Tipoff against the Seawolves is at 7 p.m., and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal.