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Yellowjackets Tip Off On High Note For Team Of The Week
Montana State Billings hosted the D2CCA Tip-Off Classic from Nov. 5-7, and the home team went 2-1 against top competition.
Montana State Billings hosted the D2CCA Tip-Off Classic from Nov. 5-7, and the home team went 2-1 against top competition.

Monday, November 8, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – Playing three games in three days in their home gym at the season-opening D2CCA Tip-Off Classic at the Trailhead, Montana State Billings leaned on preseason all-conference selection Taryn Shelley and boosted their national profile with a strong showing.

The Yellowjackets finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, with their only loss coming by just six points to the No. 1 team in the country, Lubbock Christian. Montana State Billings defeated Minot State 72-66 and Kutztown 66-55. For their winning opening to the women’s basketball season and performances against ranked competition, the Yellowjackets were named the GNAC Team of the Week.

“It was a great weekend for our team,” head coach Kevin Woodin said. “I thought we played some great basketball on both ends. It was awesome to host the Division II Tip-Off Classic at MSUB and the event was very successful for the MSUB and Billings communities.”

Shelley, one of 10 unanimous selections to the 15-member Preseason All-Conference Team, proved her credentials in the season-opener against Minot State. The senior forward scored 25 points on 12-for-22 shooting, adding nine rebounds – seven of which were offensive – and three blocks. Senior forward Cariann Kunkel chipped in 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Yellowjackets outshot the Beavers 83 percent to 63 percent from the free-throw line and 35 percent to 23 percent from three-point range.

The next challenge was Lubbock Christian, the current No. 1 team in the nation and last season’s defending national champions with a perfect 23-0 record. The home side was unfazed by the competition, however, as the Yellowjackets took a 17-8 lead into the end of the first quarter. Lubbock Christian caught fire with a 28-point second quarter and took a five-point lead into the break, but MSUB matched them step-for-step in the second half, cutting the lead to one on multiple occasions. Shelley put up a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Kunkel added nine rebounds and guard Kortney Nelson went a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor.

“The Lubbock game was a lot of fun,” Woodin said. “The atmosphere was electric and we started really well. Lubbock is a powerhouse program and we gave them our best shot.”

The weekend finale pitted MSUB against Kutztown, which was picked to finish third in the competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East Division. The Yellowjackets found themselves down eight at the half but roared back, outscoring the Golden Bears 23-10 in the fourth quarter on their way to a comfortable 66-55 victory. Once again, it was Shelley and Kunkel leading the way. Shelley led all scorers with 17 points alongside seven rebounds and a block, while Kunkel added 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Both forwards were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Montana State Billings has a head start on the women’s basketball season with three games played. Simon Fraser went 1-2 at the Billings tournament, while Alaska Anchorage is the only other team to play a non-exhibition game thus far. The Yellowjackets will be in action this weekend at the Holy Names Classic in Oakland, California, playing host Holy Names Friday, Nov. 12, followed by San Francisco State on Saturday.

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