Riley Nordgaard

Riley Nordgaard averaged 25.5 points and 9.5 rebounds last week in Montana State's home sweep over Sacramento State and Portland State.

KELLY GORHAM, For The Gazette

BOZEMAN — The Montana State women’s basketball program has unassumingly built one of the best home-court advantages in the country, a streak so muffled that reserve guard Margreet Barhoum suggested Tuesday that not even the team was fully aware of its size and scope.

“I think maybe we can keep that (quiet) so it doesn’t mess with our heads,” Barhoum joked.

Sorry, but by now the word is out.

With home victories last week over Sacramento State and Portland State, the Bobcats ran their winning streak at Worthington Arena to 20 games. Their last loss was on Nov. 24, 2015 against San Diego, a 62-49 defeat.

Since then it’s been one long victory parade. MSU has turned Brick Breeden Fieldhouse into a house of horrors for visiting opponents.

“We really have a big emphasis on protecting ‘The Brick,’ Barhoum said. “Before every home game coach Bin (12th-year coach Tricia Binford) tells us to protect our home court, and we really take that to heart and we really play hard on our home floor.”

On Tuesday, Binford noted on Twitter that the winning streak is the fifth-longest in the nation, behind those at Connecticut, Baylor, South Dakota and UCLA. MSU is three home wins shy of the program record set from 2001-03.

Binford said earlier Tuesday how much the fan support at home has factored into her team’s success there — the Bobcats are averaging nearly 1,500 fans per game, which ranks in the top three in the Big Sky Conference.

In Saturday’s 83-76 win over Portland State, 2,284 fans were in Worthington Arena.

“It’s not about the streak, it’s just about protecting our home court,” Binford said. “We understand that to have a chance of winning (the) conference you definitely have to win your home games.

“We’ve shown that we take a lot of pride in protecting ‘The Brick,’ and we have to give credit to our atmosphere and our crowd. We’ve had tremendous crowds, particularly on Saturday. We have to keep building on that.”

As they chase a second consecutive regular-season conference title — the Bobcats are currently in third place with a 6-2 mark in the Big Sky (and a 13-5 record overall) — they look to translate their home-court swagger into greater success on the road.

Not that MSU isn’t playing at a steady level away from home, but it failed to secure sweeps that were within its grasp on each of its past two road trips. This week, the Bobcats take a crack at winning road games at Idaho and Eastern Washington, teams they beat earlier this season.

Losses at Idaho State and league-leading Northern Colorado stand as MSU’s only two conference setbacks.

“We’re still continuing to grow. We’re not satisfied with 6-2,” Binford said. “We have a great opportunity at hand this week.

“The mental edge of finding ways to bring that kind of energy (on the road) without your crowd behind you ... you kind of have to build off of the adverse situation and flip the mentality and use it to your advantage. We need to get better at that.”

Individually, forward Peyton Ferris has garnered a lot of attention this season, and rightfully so. The Twin Bridges product leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game while shooting nearly 49 percent for the floor, and has put up a pair of 30-point games.

But fellow senior Riley Nordgaard played the biggest role last week, averaging 25.5 points and 9.5 rebounds and made a combined 10 3-pointers in the wins over Sac State and Portland State.

“She’s just got an aggressive mentality right now and she’s willing to do whatever we need her to do,” Binford said.

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MSU Bobcats Reporter

Sportswriter for The Billings Gazette covering Montana State University athletics.