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Women hoopsters sweep Lethbridge in opener

UMW News Bureau

The University of Montana Western Bulldog women's basketball team opened their season with two wins against the University of Lethbridge, 70-59 on Friday, Oct. 21 and again on Saturday, Oct. 22, 74-55. By Lowell Peterson The University of Montana Western Bulldog women's basketball team opened their season with two wins against the University of Lethbridge, 70-59 on Friday, Oct. 21 and again on Saturday, Oct. 22, 74-55. The Bulldogs overcame a very cold shooting night to defeat the Pronghorns on Friday. The Bulldogs were just 23-64 on overall field goal attempts and even colder from beyond the three-point line, making just one of 16 attempts. Fortunately, the team shot very well from the free throw line, making 23 of 28 charity tosses. Hayley Pettit made a basket and foul shot to tie the game 7-7, the third tie in the first four minutes. Lethbridge took the lead on a Natalie Nichols free throw and kept it for most of the half. With just over five minutes to play in the opening period, the Bulldogs trailed 23-17. At that point Montana Western went on a 13-1 run to take a six-point lead with 47 seconds left. Stephanie Inman then hit a three pointer for the Pronghorns and the half ended with the Bulldogs up 30-27. Montana Western did not shoot any better in the second half but were deadly from the free throw line making 17 of 19 to outscore Lethbridge 40-32 and hold on for the win. Four players made their Bulldog debut on the night: Brittney Leibenguth, Jenna Banks, Kaci Matthies and Breyenne Mosey. Three players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs. Sammi Bignell led the way with 20 points, Pettit added 15 and Nicole Tams scored 10. Matthies had a team high 11 rebounds and scored nine points, just missing a double-double in her first college game. Bignell, Alecia Wilson and Kassi Kerbs lead the way in assists with two apiece. Ali Cameron led the Pronghorns with 14 points and Jami Wiebe had 11. Nichols had a team-high eight rebounds and seven assists. On Saturday, Montana Western’s Sammi Bignell scored the first basket of the game. After the Pronghorns tied things at 5-5, Hayley Pettit scored in the paint to regain the lead for good and the Bulldogs cruised on for a 74-55 victory. A three-point basket by Bignell with 7:43 to play in the first half gave the Bulldogs their first double-digit lead, 27-15, and the closest the Pronghorns would get the rest of the game would be 10 points. Morgan Thacker’s basket ended the first half giving Montana Western a 39-25 lead. Lethbridge was never able to mount a serious challenge in the second half as seven different times the Bulldogs extended the lead to 20 points. Kassi Kerbs scored the last four points of the game giving Montana Western the 19-point win. “We played better team basketball today,” head coach Cara Cocchiarella said. “Almost every time I looked out on the court we had a different combination of girls playing.” Bignell led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points and Roxy Thurman made three of four three-point shots to score 11. Pettit had a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds. Alecia Wilson was the assists leader with eight and was also the steals leader with three. Cassidy Taal led the Pronghorns with 17 points and Natalie Nichols pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out six assists. The Bulldogs’ defense forced Lethbridge into 33 turnovers and held them to a .302 (16-53) shooting percentage from the field overall and just .154 (2-13) from beyond the three-point line. The offensive bright spot for the Pronghorns was making 21 of 29 (.724) free throws. On offense the Bulldogs got off 31 more shots than the Pronghorns, making 30-of-84 (.357) and made 6-of-19 three point attempts, a much improved effort compared to the 1-of-16 shooting the previous night. “We did pretty well,” Cocchiarella said. “The things we need to work on are pretty obvious so, hopefully, we will get a lot better in the next few practices. Some of our decisions we make with the ball need to improve.” Montana Western improved to 2-0 on the season. The Pronghorns lost for the fourth time on their Montana road trip, twice each to Montana Western and MSU-Northern. The Bulldogs' next game will be at home against Dickinson State University on Friday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m.