BOZEMAN — Streaks are made to be broken. Both senior guard Delany Junkermier and coach Tricia Binford conceded that Thursday night following Montana State’s 69-60 home loss to Portland State.
But this one stung. Weeks of downplaying what had swelled into the second-longest home winning streak in Division I women’s basketball came to a head as the Bobcats saw their run of Worthington Arena victories stopped cold at 31.
It was MSU’s first home defeat since a 62-49 loss to San Diego on Nov. 24, 2015. It marked its first home loss to a Big Sky Conference opponent since an 85-63 setback versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 12, 2015.
The 31 consecutive home-court wins trailed only UConn’s streak — which entering Thursday had reached a whopping 70 in a row.
“Obviously it’s pretty quiet,” said an emotional Junkermier when asked about the mood in the Bobcats’ locker room. “This will hurt.”
Making matters difficult were the Bobcats’ shooting difficulties. MSU missed 14 of their first 16 3-point tries and finished the game with a shooting percentage of 36 percent (22 of 61).
Junkermier was the lone player to find a true offensive rhythm. She made her first seven shots, which included four 3-pointers, and finished with a game-high 19 points.
But from the outset the Bobcats weren’t assertive enough against Portland State’s aggressive zone defense. And as the missed shots piled up, passivity set in.
It was a reversal of fortune from MSU’s homestand two weeks ago, which resulted in big wins over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
In those games, the Bobcats combined to make 34 3-pointers and shot 44 percent from the arc overall. Against the Vikings, MSU hit just 9 of 31 3-point attempts.
By halftime, only Junkermier and sophomore post Madeline Smith had made field goals. The rest of the team was 0 for 16.
“We just really had a hard time getting into any kind of flow with tempo and assertiveness in that first half,” Binford said.
“Right now, the trend is if the first couple shots haven’t been falling then we’ve kind of played a little bit more passive. When the first couple shots do fall then we’ve played with a lot more tempo. We’re going to have to find a way to get over that.”
Oliana Squires, one of the Bobcats’ top guards, was limited to just four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Squires picked up her third foul in the first quarter and was relegated to the bench.
Still, Squires finished with 13 points in 23 minutes. Her 3-pointer with 1:01 left pulled the Bobcats within 62-59 after they’d trailed by as many as 15 earlier in the fourth quarter. But that was as close as they’d get.
“It would have been nice to have (Squires) in the rotation because she’s somebody that, against (zone defenses), can put the ball on the floor and draw some fouls. So it shifted some rotations.
“But at the same time it’s an opportunity for other kids to step up. I thought Delany had a fantastic game but we just didn’t have enough kids around her.”
“We were definitely passive,” Junkermier said. “Being stagnant on the offensive end I think was a huge part. We weren’t moving. Finally in the second half we started getting cuts and were starting to penetrate. But that was the main thing — passiveness. We just weren’t looking to score as we normally do.”
Madeline Smith had 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds for MSU, which lost its third straight game after road defeats last week at Northern Colorado and North Dakota.
Sidney Reilly's 18 points led Portland State. Ashley Bolston had 15 points and made 8 of 10 free throws for the Vikings, who shot 83 percent (10 of 12) in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead.
“We couldn’t get stops on the defensive end, and it’s hard to go back and forth when they’re already ahead,” Junkermier said. “That was our main thing. We weren’t able to get stops and we had a couple mess-ups on our rotations. Simple as that.”
The Bobcats (8-8, 2-3) host Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m., at which time they’ll try to start a new streak.
“It meant quite a bit, but streaks are meant to be broken,” Junkermier said. “It was cool enough that we got to be a part of it. We’ve just got to fight back to be 1-0 here on Saturday.”
“It’s just a matter of how do we bounce back from this and show our character?" Binford said. "You have an opportunity to choose how to respond and take care of business and get prepped for Sac State. So we’ll move on from this game, but we’ve got to learn from this game as well, and that’s the important detail.”