Montana State-Northern Hits 29 of 36 Free Throws to Defeat Willamette, 67-53

DeLong and Josephson each Score Nine Points for Bearcats

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Montana State University-Northern took advantage of its many free throw opportunities against Willamette University at Cone Field House on Saturday, Dec. 8. The Skylights hit 29 of 36 charity shots on their way to a 67-53 victory over the Bearcats.

MSU-Northern, located in Havre, Mont., improved to 5-4 on the season. The Skylights compete in NAIA Division I and the Frontier Conference. Willamette, which competes in NCAA Division III and the Northwest Conference, fell to 0-9.

The Skylights were led by Nikki Tresch with 20 points, including 11 of 12 on free throws. Jordan Bruursema added 18 points, and Rachelle Bennett provided 10 points and eight rebounds.

For Willamette, all 10 players who saw action scored during the game, but none of the Bearcats reached double digits. Jojo DeLong (So., G, Santa Clarita, CA/Canyon HS) and Rebecca Josephson (Jr., G, Fair Oaks, CA/Del Camp HS) led the way with nine points each.

DeLong hit 3 of 5 three-pointers, while Josephson earned four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Jo Johnston (Fr., C, Missoula, MT/Florence-Carlton HS) contributed seven points and a team-high seven rebounds for the Bearcats. Katie Kalugin (So., F, Woodburn, OR/Woodburn HS) and Daena Mau (So., G, Aiea, HI/Punahou School) registered six points apiece. Katelyn Nordlien (So., F, Salem, OR/ North Salem HS) grabbed six rebounds.

MSU-Northern led 7-2 after Jordan Bruursema scored on a jump shot with 15:43 remaining in the first half. WU rallied to tie the game at 9-9 on a free throw by Ali Babij (Fr., F, Ontario, OR/Ontario HS).

The score was tied again after the teams exchanged baskets, and then Willamette took a 13-11 advantage on a jumper by Nordlien with 8:27 on the clock. Willamette held a 15-12 margin after Alexa Beeson (Jr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) scored a basket at the 6:57 mark.

Bruursema sank a 3-pointer to tie the game and Bennett added another trifecta to give the Skylights an 18-15 lead with 5:17 to go. Katie Kalugin (So., F, Woodburn, OR/Woodburn HS) tallied the next basket for Willamette, and the teams stayed close over the remainder of the half. MSU-Northern ended the stanza with a 6-2 run for a 27-23 lead.

The first half featured six ties and two lead changes. Bruursema led all players with 11 points at the break.

Montana State-Northern scored the first eight points of the second half for a 35-23 lead. The last four points of the run were scored at the free throw line on two shots each by Bruursema and Tresch. Willamette achieved its first basket of the second half with 14:57 remaining on a layup by Babij.

The Bearcats pulled within 36-27 less than a minute later, and also trailed by nine points at 39-30, after DeLong swished a 3-pointer with 12:22 left. The Skylights tacked on a 7-0 run, ending with a 3-pointer by Tresch with 9:51 to go, as MSU-Northern took charge with a 46-30 lead.

Even so, Willamette battled into the final minute. The Bearcats clawed within 12 points at 54-42 with 3:00 remaining, and cut the lead to 11 points four times in the final 1:42. The Skylights, however, hit two free throws with 2:32 left and sank 11 of 14 free throws in the last 1:23.

Willamette scored four more field goals than the Skylights, 21 to 17, and shot slightly better from the field at 39.6% for the Bearcats to 36.2% for MSU-Northern. The Bearcats also ended the game with a 34-32 rebounding edge.

The difference was at the line, where Montana State-Northern's 29-for-36 performance (80.6%) was only partially offset by Willamette, which converted 8 of 13 free throws (61.5%). WU committed 25 fouls and MSU-Northern committed 13.

Willamette made 3 of 9 three-pointers (33.3%), while MSU-Northern was 4 of 17 (23.5%) from behind the arc.

After playing their last four games in eight days, the Bearcats will not play again until Friday, Dec. 28, when they will host William Jessup University at Cone Field House. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE

Montana State-Northern 67
Willamette University 53

Photo gallery
(By Naomi Stukey, Photographer for Willamette Athletics)

Rebecca Josephson scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds to go with two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Rebecca Josephson scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds to go with two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Katelyn Nordlien led the Bearcats with six rebounds.

Katelyn Nordlien led the Bearcats with six rebounds.

Ali Babij scored five points and hauled down four boards.

Ali Babij scored five points and hauled down four boards.