BOZEMAN — Not long after tipoff, Montana State’s Delany Junkermier went diving across the floor to corral a loose ball at midcourt to snuff out a Montana possession.
It was a tone-setter for — and a microcosm of — the 104th women’s basketball meeting between the Bobcats and Lady Griz, a game MSU ran away with on the strength of heart, hustle and, of course, execution.
Junkermier and Montana State’s seniors were the catalysts of the 81-64 win at Worthington Arena, which matches the Bobcats’ second-biggest margin of victory in the history of the series with the Lady Griz. It was also MSU’s fifth win in its past six games against UM.
For both coaches — MSU’s Tricia Binford and Montana’s Shannon Schweyen — the Bobcats’ intensity, especially on the glass, paved the way for a lopsided outcome in front of 4,017 fans.
The statistics don't mislead: Montana State outrebounded the Lady Griz 46-37 and scored 19 second-chance points.
“The defensive glass was going to be challenging in itself, but to get the offensive rebounding production was really over the top,” Binford said. “I thought that was the difference getting us out of the gate and converting on some of those opportunities.”
“I thought the tale of the game today was rebounding,” echoed Schweyen. “To get 17 offensive boards and that many second shots certainly set the tone. I felt going into it that was an area where we should have been strong. It felt like we got outhustled in that aspect of the game, for sure.”
When the Bobcats are going well, they score from all over the floor — beyond the arc, driving to the rim and capitalizing on put-back tries.
MSU’s Madeline Smith, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. That was not a surprise relative to what Rebekah Hatchard did.
Hatchard, a 5-8 senior from Adelaide, Australia, had 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. She also hit two 3-pointers, including one at the 7:59 mark of the fourth quarter that built the Bobcats’ lead to 19 points.
Meanwhile, senior point guard Hannah Caudill had six assists and led an offensive performance that allowed for just six total turnovers. As a team, the Bobcats had 18 assists.
“Everyone was just really focused on playing well and playing sound, I think we just moved the ball really well and we passed the ball pretty well, too,” said Caudill, who is inching closer to the school record for career assists. “Turnovers and mistakes just didn’t pop up like they have in the past.”
Junkermier continued her recent hot streak, too. She led the Bobcats with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting. The senior trio of Caudill, Junkermier and Hatchard combined for 44 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists while shooting 42 percent.
The game was tied 14-14 after the first quarter, but Montana State outscored the Lady Griz 21-9 in the second quarter and never looked back.
“For us to get out of the gate like we did, I said that was the seniors being seniors and really stepping up,” Binford said. “I thought we just got out to a great start, really consistent even from the beginning.
“(Our) guards were super aggressive. We missed three or four layups in the first quarter but the mentality was there and we just kind of built off of that. It was for sure the seniors rising to the occasion.”
It was an out-of-character performance for the Lady Griz, who came into the game ranked third in the Big Sky Conference in rebounding margin.
Sophia Stiles, a freshman from Malta playing in her first rivalry game against MSU, said Montana got away from what it does well.
“Effort definitely is a big factor," Stiles said. "You can’t control everything in the game, but you can control your attitude and your effort, and I just felt like we weren’t giving it our all the defensive boards and they were just getting lots of put-backs.”
The Lady Griz spent much of the game trying to establish an inside presence, but too many high-percentage shots didn’t fall. The Bobcats were able to go on a 13-2 run in the second quarter and force the Lady Griz into catch-up mode.
MSU began the second half like it ended the first. When Caudill made a 3 with 4:05 left in the third quarter, the Bobcats had a 54-33 lead.
Montana never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
“We got a lot of good looks and just none of them went, some rebound put-backs and they didn’t go down,” Schweyen said. “At a time like that you hope you can hang in the game if you’re getting stops on the other end, but we weren’t getting stops.
“They were getting to the hole on us pretty good, and they’re hard to guard. That’s the challenge of guarding them. They can shoot the 3 and they put it down well.”
The Bobcats have never beaten the Lady Griz by 20 or more points, but the 17-point difference nearly matched their greatest margin of victory in the series — an 80-61 win at home during the 1976-77 season.
Montana State surely made this one count. They improved to 10-8 overall and to 4-3 in the Big Sky. The Lady Griz are now 9-9 overall and 5-2 in the league.
“When you look at four kids being in double digits for scoring and when you have multiple kids in double digits for rebounds, I just think that’s the steadiness,” Binford said. “When this team starts clicking is when you get that chemistry across the board.”