Vikings can't stage late comeback

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 30, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - It wasn't Western Washington University women's basketball versus the world, but the effort by Montana State University-Billings' Bobbi Knudsen could have doubled as such.

Knudsen, who finished with a game-high 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting, led the Yellowjackets to a 71-63 win over WWU on Thursday, Jan. 30, in Sam Carver Gymnasium, taking with them the outright lead in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

All in all, Knudsen's 28-point game was fairly mundane considering her last performance against WWU (11-7, GNAC 7-3) yielded a career-high 37 points on Jan.4, but that game notwithstanding, the senior guards' presence almost single-handely ended the Vikings' 26-game home winning streak.

"We tried a lot of different things, but we weren't very successful with it," said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo of defending Knudsen.

She also chipped in seven rebounds, four assists and a steal while playing all 40 minutes of the game.

The Vikings, who suffered only their first loss in their last seven games, were led by Sarah Hill's 16 points and nine rebounds. Junior post Sydney Donaldson finished the game with 11 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while freshman Tia Briggs added 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

WWU's propensity to stage late-game comebacks, just as it did against both Northwest Nazarene University and the University of Alaska-Anchorage, nearly happened again after Marcel Pounds converted on a layup bringing the score to within two, 60-58, with 5:09 left in the second half.

The Vikings staged a 6-0 run to get it to that point, but 3-pointer on the other end by the Yellowjackets' Janiel Olson and an offensive rebound and putback by Knudsen lifted MSUB to a 65-58 lead in just two possessions.

The magic that Dolfo and her squad had been able to conjure in previous games was simply not there.

"That's been great, being able to get wins, but we knew against a great team like Billings, you can't wait to turn on that fire," Donaldson said. "You have to have it from the get go. We need to learn you can't rely on those last five minutes because against good teams, it's not going to be enough."

Another troubling trend for Dolfo was WWU's inability to keep the Yellowjackets off the offensive glass. That was a problem earlier in the season, one the Vikings had since seemed to correct, but its ugly head reared again as MSUB out-rebounded the Vikings 43-34, and 14-10 on the offensive side.

"We play a good 20 seconds of defense and then we wouldn't block out," Dolfo said. "If you don't block out, you play that 30 seconds again and it takes a lot of the wind out of your sails."

The Yellowjackets recorded six offensive rebounds in the final 6:52, leading to eight late second-chance points.

"We didn't block out, and they hit some big shots," Dolfo said.

Knudsen continued to prove throughout the first quarter that all she needed was a little space.

The senior guard started the game by hitting her first three shots, scoring six of the Yellowjackets' 13 early points. WWU, though, managed to keep the game within one, 13-12, after a Donaldson layup. Another Knudsen jumper gave MSUB a 20-16 lead, but the Vikings answered back with a 7-2 run over the next three minutes capped by two of Hill's eight first-half points.

MSUB hit 3-pointers in three of its next four possessions - two by Quinn Peoples and one by Knudsen - to lengthen the lead to 33-31 with 2:19 left, but back-to-back baskets by Tia Briggs in the last 1:17 of the first half brought WWU to within two, 37-35, going into the second.

"It's not only her one on one, but she facilitates for her team," said Donaldson of Knudsen, who helped both Quinn Peoples and Kayleen Goggins get open looks from 3 in the first half.

MSUB jumped out to a 50-42 lead in the second half following a layup by Goggins. Free throws by Pand consecutive layups by Hill lessened the gap, but a pair of baskets by Knudsen again kept MSUB just out of reach.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates. Visit http://www.bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog/index.html for blog posts on the latest county sports news.

MONTANA ST. BILLINGS 71, WESTERN WASHINGTON 63

MONTANA ST. BILLINGS (15-5, 8-2 GNAC)

Knudsen,Bobbi 12-23 2-2 28; Goggins,Kayleen 5-10 0-0 12; Olson,Janiel 1-7 5-8 8; Peoples,Quinn 3-7 0-0 8; Banis,Chelsea 4-8 0-0 8; Breen,Alisha 1-4 2-4 4; Hanser,Austin 0-2 3-5 3; Capouch,Tenika 0-0 0-0 0; Kumm,Brandy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-61 12-19 71.

WESTERN WASHINGTON (11-7, 7-3 GNAC)

Hill,Sarah 6-10 4-8 16; Briggs,Tia 6-9 2-2 14; Donaldson,Sydney 4-8 3-4 11; Colard,Katie 2-10 2-2 7; Pounds,Marcel 2-7 2-2 6; Peacocke,Taylor 2-9 1-1 5; White,Jenni 2-8 0-0 4; Gandy,Kiana 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-63 14-19 63.

Half: MSB 37, WWU 35

3-point goals--Montana St. Billings 7-22 (Goggins,Kayleen 2-3; Peoples,Quinn 2-5; Knudsen,Bobbi 2-7; Olson,Janiel 1-4; Hanser,Austin 0-1; Breen,Alisha 0-2), Western Washington 1-13 (Colard,Katie 1-6; Pounds,Marcel 0-4; Peacocke,Taylor 0-2; White,Jenni 0-1). Fouled out--Montana St. Billings-None, Western Washington-None. Rebounds--Montana St. Billings 43 (Banis,Chelsea 12), Western Washington 34 (Donaldson,Sydney 12). Assists--Montana St. Billings 11 (Knudsen,Bobbi 4), Western Washington 9 (Briggs,Tia 2; Colard,Katie 2). Total fouls--Montana St. Billings 19, Western Washington 20. Technical fouls--Montana St. Billings-None, Western Washington-None. A-442

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