By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
HELENA, Mont. -- Willamette University rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the second half to lead nationally-ranked Montana State University-Northern by one-point twice in the fourth quarter, but the Skylights pulled away in the closing minutes for a 56-49 win over the Bearcats on Monday, Dec. 19 at Carroll College.
MSU-Northern, ranked #11 in the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Poll, improved to 10-2 on the season. The Skylights' only losses have been to the top two teams in the NAIA, #1-ranked Freed-Hardman University (Tenn.) and #2 Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho). Willamette, which competes in NCAA Division III, fell to 7-2 overall.
Willamette led 43-42 with 6:35 remaining, and held a 45-44 advantage with 3:35 left. A bit later, the game was tied at 47-47 with just under two minutes to go. MSU-Northern ended the game with a 9-2 run.
Natalee Faupel topped MSUN with a game-high 30 points and also contributed nine rebounds, two assists and one steal. She was 12 of 22 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-point shots. Molly Kreycik provided the Skylights with 11 points and went 4 of 7 from the field. She was 2 of 4 on 3-pointers. Kreycik also grabbed five rebounds and earned three assists.
Marisa Hamilton (Sr./Jr., F, Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS) led the Bearcats with 20 points. She also hauled down five rebounds and made three steals. She was 8 of 13 on field goals.
Madi Andresen (Jr., P, Forest Grove, OR/Forest Grove HS) supplied Willamette with 10 points and six boards. She was 4 of 7 from the field. Kylie Towry (Sr./Jr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) tacked on six points and earned two rebounds, while Alex Wert (Sr., F, Spokane, WA/St. George's HS) grabbed a game-high 10 boards.
MSU-Northern took a 5-2 lead with 6:04 left in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Faupel. Willamette answered with a 4-0 run on baskets by Wert and Hamilton for a 6-5 lead. The Bearcats held an 8-7 edge after Towry hit a jumper with 3:09 to go. The Skylights closed the quarter with a 6-2 run, ending with a jumper by Jacy Thompson as the buzzer sounded for a 13-10 lead.
Fauepel added a 3-point basket just over a minute into the second quarter to give MSUN a 16-10 margin. Willamette pulled within 16-12 on a shot in the paint by Hamilton 30 seconds later.
The Skylights extended their lead to 22-13 following a jumper by Faupel at the 6:53 mark. Willamette reduced the deficit to 24-19 when Hamilton grabbed her own rebound and scored with 2:40 remaining in the half.
Faupel sank a jumper on MSUN's next possession, and Kreycik connected on a 3-pointer with 1:42 left, allowing the Skylights to claim a 29-19 lead at halftime.
Willamette trailed 32-19 after Sierra Richards added a 3-pointer for the Skylights with 8:57 left in the third quarter. The Bearcats responded with a 6-0 offensibve surge that included jump shots by Andresen, Towry and Hamilton. With 5:19 on the clock, WU was within seven points at 32-25.
The Bearcats pulled within six points on a 3-pointer by Hamilton with 51 seconds remaining in the quarter, but Kreycik answered with a 3-pointer for MSU-Northern 18 seconds later. Hamilton made a jumper and added a free throw with 13 seconds on the clock, as Willamette moved within 42-36.
Willamette increased its run to 10-0 by earning the first seven points of the fourth quarter to take a 43-42 lead. Whitney Anderson (Jr., G, Willamina, OR/Willamina HS) opened the quarter with a basket, while Mary Eckenrode (Jr., G, Highly, AZ/Highland HS) tacked on a pair of free throws with 7:24 left. Anderesen was fouled while scoring a basket with 6:35 on the clock. She sank the free throw to put WU in front.
Faupel hit a jumper at the 5:48 mark to give MSU-Norhern a 44-43 advantage. Willamette regained the lead at 45-44 on a jumper by Andresen with 3:53 to play.
The Skylights grabbed a 47-45 lead on a 3-pointer by Faupel at the 2:54 mark. Hamilton scored next to tie the game with 1:59 remaining.
A jumper and a foul shot by Faupel with 1:27 left put MSUN back in front at 50-47. Hamilton sank two free throws for Willamette with 1:09 on the clock to reduce the Skylights' lead to a single point.
MSU-Northern ended the game with six consecutive points. Faupel scored on a jumper with 53 seconds to go. Kati Fertterer hit two free throws with 23 seconds left, and Faupel made two free throws with 13 seconds remaining.
Willamette will remain in Helena, Montana, to take on Carroll College on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Game time is set for 12 p.m. CST/11 a.m. PST. Carroll, ranked #25 in the NAIA Division I Poll, improved to 8-3 on the season with a 62-55 victory over Pacific University (Ore.) on Monday.