BOZEMAN — For most of the non-conference season Montana State head coach Tricia Binford looked toward MSU’s game against South Dakota State. It would be a measuring stick for the Bobcat program- a glimpse for where she wants to take the team.
On Tuesday night in Worthington Arena, South Dakota State did what it does best; execute at a high level, limit mistakes and shoot lights-out. For its effort, SDSU posted an 88-67 win over the Bobcats in front of 1,327 spectators.
Montana State (5-5) opened strong, shooting 46 percent from the field. South Dakota State (8-4) countered with four 3-pointers, taking a 20-16 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
The Jackrabbits used a 15-4 run midway through the second frame to build a double-digit lead. SDSU held a 43-30 cushion at intermission.
South Dakota State expanded its lead to 18 points after the third quarter. Montana State scored six unanswered points early in the fourth period to close to within 75-59, but would get no closer.
“I loved our competitiveness and how we battled,” Binford said. “We competed on the glass, we competed getting to the foul line. South Dakota State is ranked in the mid-majors and on the bubble of being nationally ranked because they just execute and don’t have very many mistakes. The mistakes you make, they make you pay for them. We had too many communication breakdowns. We had two people guarding the same player and we left too many fantastic shooters on the perimeter unguarded.”
Montana State was paced by Claire Lundberg, who notched a game-high 24 points, connecting on nine-of-14 from the field, including four 3-pointers. Junior Madeline Smith added nine points and a team-high six rebounds.
For the game, the Bobcats shot 45.3 percent from the field and out-rebounded SDSU 27-24. The Jackrabbits forced sixteen Bobcats turnovers and turned them into 23 points.
South Dakota State finished shooting 62.3 percent from the field and converted 10-of-21 from long distance. The Jackrabbits had four players in double-digits led by Madison Guebert and Tylee Irwin with 18 points, apiece.
Montana State will take a brief holiday break before opening Big Sky Conference play at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 when it hosts Southern Utah.