BOZEMAN — Hannah Caudill emerged from the locker room Thursday night curious but ultimately unaware that Montana State’s deluge of 3-pointers in a 91-71 victory over Southern Utah had shattered the single-game school record.
And it wasn’t meant to be: Caudill admitted that the Bobcats’ 18-for-41 shooting performance from beyond the arc was simply a function of Southern Utah’s defensive approach. Montana State (7-5, 1-1 Big Sky) had countless open looks from the perimeter and did not hesitate to take what it was given.
“Our plan was to just take care of the ball, make sound passes, sound decisions, and they gave us wide-open shots and people stepped up to the plate,” Caudill said.
The 18 3-pointers broke the previous mark of 15 set in a game against Montana Tech on Dec. 4, 2004. Keying that record-setting performance was, among many, Delany Junkermier, who shot 4 for 6 from the arc on the way to scoring a career-high 22 points.
Junkermier made 9 for 14 shots in all, a vast improvement from the 28-percent clip at which she’d been shooting through the season’s first 11 games. Prior to Thursday, Junkermier had made just six 3s.
“I’m so glad, because she hits so many shots in practice and it just doesn’t happen for her in the games,” Caudill said. “Maybe this is her comeback time.
“It’d be great to see her play like she does in practice. This is how she plays, and this is the player that she is. It was really cool seeing her perform.”
“Delany was certainly in a great zone,” MSU coach Tricia Binford said. “I thought she was in a really relaxed state on the offensive end, which is a good place to be.”
Junkermier later suffered a leg injury during a loose-ball scramble in the fourth quarter, but Binford said the senior would “for sure” be ready to play Saturday at home against Northern Arizona.
Junkermier was in the training room after the game and unavailable for comment.
It was also a career night for Rebekah Hatchard, who scored 16 points — the most of her career — while making 4 of 5 3-point tries. And Caudill, the senior catalyst at point guard, finished with 18 points and made six shots from beyond the arc.
The victory rung in Montana State’s Big Sky Conference title defense. The Bobcats won the league’s regular-season and tournament championships last year, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 seasons.
It was also their 30th consecutive home win, an extension of the second-longest streak in the nation.
The Bobcats’ aim was to protect the basketball and limit turnovers, which they did in the first half. MSU built a 22-point lead by halftime, and that advantage swelled to as much as 34 points in the third quarter.
But sloppy ball handling allowed Southern Utah — one of the top teams in the nation in steals — to cut its deficit to 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats finished with 16 turnovers. The Thunderbirds (1-11, 0-1) totaled 12 steals.
Caudill said MSU’s first-half success was due to “moving, not being stagnant. I think we kind of stepped away from that in the second half. We kind of stood still. But in the first half we kept moving and played off each other really well, spaced the floor.”
“The way we started out the first half, we should have had a better second half,” Binford said. “The end of the third quarter is kind of when we went a little bit stagnant and Southern Utah started getting some turnovers and getting into their game.
“I thought the first couple quarters we controlled the game, versus when Southern Utah gets hot they’re (forcing turnovers), they’re playing in transition, they’re getting the offensive boards, and that’s where you saw their strengths start to take control. So we’ve got to clean those things up.”
The Bobcats will welcome Northern Arizona to Worthington Arena on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The Lumberjacks (3-9, 0-1) lost 70-62 in overtime at Montana on Thursday night. NAU is coached by former Havre and University of Washington standout Loree Payne.