Subscribe for 17¢ / day

BOZEMAN — Delany Junkermier played a huge role in Montana State’s blowout win Thursday night against Southern Utah, scoring a career-high 22 points while supplementing a shooting barrage that produced a school-record 18 3-pointers.

But Junkermier was injured in the fourth quarter that night and ultimately was not able to play Saturday as the Bobcats welcomed Northern Arizona into the increasingly friendly confines of Worthington Arena. Junkermier spent the day in street clothes with her left ankle heavily taped.

To fill the void, the Bobcats just kept shooting.

MSU shrugged off Junkermier’s absence and continued its onslaught, this time making 16 3-pointers in an 81-39 rout of NAU. It was the Bobcats’ 31st consecutive home victory, an extension of what is the second-longest home winning streak in Division I.

Freshmen Laura Pranger and Ashley Van Sickle picked up much of the slack in Junkermier’s stead. Pranger, making her first-ever start, had a career-high 12 points in 26 minutes while Van Sickle, a backup point guard, scored nine points — also a career-best — with three 3-pointers in 30 minutes.

Van Sickle, from Arvada, Colorado, also had five rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Oliana Squires, Rebekah Hatchard and Tori Martell, meanwhile, combined to make nine 3s. In running their early Big Sky Conference record to 2-0, the Bobcats combined to make 34 3-pointers against Southern Utah and NAU.

“It’s all about confidence,” Squires said. “We’re all shooting with a lot of confidence.”

That proved evident in the statistics. Of the 131 shots MSU put up in its two weekend wins, 77 were from beyond the arc, a rate of 59 percent.

For first-year NAU coach Loree Payne, a legendary high school player at Havre and a former standout at the University of Washington, it wasn’t a pleasant Treasure State homecoming.

“Montana State is shooting the ball really, really well right now,” Payne said. “I don’t think that the effort and the execution really represented who we are and how we’re able to play, but tonight was just a challenge.

“We were struggling on all cylinders of shooting the ball and getting hands up on their shooters, and their shooters were hot. So credit them. We just have a lot of work to do.”

As a team, MSU dished out 21 assists, led by Squires’ six, which is a new career best.

When the Bobcats weren’t burning the Lumberjacks from long range, 6-foot-2 sophomore post Madeline Smith went to work inside. Smith finished with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, and led an offense that also produced 26 points in the paint.

It was Smith’s fourth double-double of the season.

Smith said her offensive production “was more of a focus for me today. Last game I wasn’t really thinking about it as much, and they were hitting everything.”

Smith came into the game ranked third in the Big Sky with an average 9.5 rebounds per game. That’s four more than she averaged last season.

“It’s been something I needed to focus on so I could make sure I could get minutes on the court, so it’s something I think the whole season I’ve tried to do,” said Smith, who had a 19-rebound game earlier in the year. “Blaire (Braxton) and I go at it in practice, and so it happens in the game, too.

“You usually have to focus on certain things, and that’s something I’ve had to focus on, because it’s not something I did last year.”

The Bobcats (8-5 2-0) will prepare this week for their first conference road games. They play Thursday at Northern Colorado and Saturday at North Dakota.

The UNC game could prove especially tough: The Bears, at 10-3 overall and 2-0 in the league, are at the moment one of the premier teams in the Big Sky. But by starting the conference season unbeaten in its own right, MSU will hit the road with confidence.

“It’s really good, and I think we all feel really good,” Smith said. “It will be nice going into the away games, which are definitely harder. It will be good to have these first two and go into next week. We’ll be ready.”

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

​Email Greg Rachac at or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac


Load comments