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Women bounce back with two conference wins

UMW News Bureau

After two conference losses the previous weekend, the University of Montana Western women’s basketball team was looking forward to two upcoming home games. The Bulldogs hosted both Montana State University-Northern and the University of Great Falls on Jan. 10 and Jan 12.

The first game against MSU-Northern proved to give the Bulldogs just what they needed. The Bulldogs came out on fire in the first half and jumped out on the Skylights with a solid 14-4 lead only five minutes into the game. A free throw by sophomore Jenna Banks with 54 seconds to go in the first half pushed the lead to 16, which was the largest lead of the half. The Skylights hit a three-pointer before the half ended, and Montana Western went into the half with a 13-point lead.

“It was great to see Jenna come out and hit some jumpers in the first half,” head coach Lindsay Woolley said. “I thought Northern was really trying to key in on Sammi [Bignell], and that opened up the floor for some of our other kids to rise to the challenge and knock down some shots.”

The second half proved to be much of the same for the Bulldogs. Later in the second period, another Banks free throw stretched the lead to 33, which would be the largest lead of the game. Montana Western ended the game with four Bulldogs scoring in double digits and eight Bulldogs scoring in the game.

Banks led all scorers with 17 points. Junior Roxy Thurman was not far behind with 16 points and four steals. Kaci Matthies added 11 points while Alecia Wilson put up 10 points, six rebounds and led the team in assists with seven. Sammi Bignell led the team in rebounds with 10 and also added four assists while Brittney Leibenguth snagged eight boards. The Bulldogs ended the game shooting an impressive 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range and 70 percent from the free-throw line.

The all-around team effort put Montana Western on top by a score of 75-49, and coach Woolley was pleased.

“I couldn’t be more happy with the energy and effort we came out with,” Woolley explained. “Our kids made a decision that they were going to play with confidence, and I think that was the difference. Northern didn’t play as well as they would have liked, and I am sure they will be much better when we go to their place in February.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs hosted the University of Great Falls Argos. Although Montana Western did not come out as strong or with the hot hand as they did on Thursday, they managed to get the job done and beat the Argos 65-50. The Bulldogs ended the night shooting 37 percent from the field, 31 percent from the three-point line and almost 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Sammi Bignell had an enormous night for the Bulldogs. She led all scorers with 34 points while adding nine rebounds to lead the night. Jenna Banks chipped in 10 points and Kassie Kerbs put up six points for the Bulldogs. Alecia Wilson ended the night with eight assists.

“Sammi did a good job moving without the ball, and her teammates found her for some easy baskets,” Woolley added. “We didn’t shoot as well as Thursday, but Kelsey and Kassi both hit some big shots for us late in the second half that helped us to extend our lead.”

The two wins bump Montana Western’s conference record to 2-3 and move their overall record to 10-9. The Bulldogs will host Rocky Mountain College and Dickinson State College on Jan. 18 and 19. The Jan. 18 game against Rocky Mountain College will start at 5:30 pm while the Jan. 19 game against Dickinson State has been changed from 5:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

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