GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Offensive struggles and a lack of rebounding cost the Lady Argos in an 81-63 to (15) Montana State University - Northern. UGF shot just over 30 percent in the first quarter and got outrebounded 45-31.
The turning point in the game came in the final seconds of the first quarter. With 34 seconds left in the period, the Lady Argos held a 1-point lead and had a chance to hold the ball for the last shot. Instead, with two seconds left, MSUN's Natalee Faupel stole the ball off of UGF's Stephanie McDonagh, raced down the court, and sent up a prayer of a 3-pointer just a few steps past half court. It was good.
That three came the Skylights a 2-point lead at the start of the second quarter when Faupel struck again. Eight second into the period she drove to the line, drew a foul, and finished through the contact. She then made the free throw to complete the 3-point play and give Northern a 5-point lead, the largest of the game to that point.
After Faupel's flurry, the Lady Argos just weren't the same.
The team actually shot better in the in the second quarter (33 percent), than the first (28 percent), but a drop in energy, particularly on the defensive glass was apparent. Over a minute and a half stretch of play, UGF gave up five offensive rebounds. The Lady Argo also struggled to stop Faupel, who scored 11 of her 25 points in the period.
A 21-13 second quarter score meant a 10-point Northern lead at the half.
That lead was immediately truncated at the start of the second half by a three from junior guard Stephanie McDonagh. UGF's leading scorer dead all she could in the third quarter to keep the Lady Argos in the game. She scored 13 of UGF's 20 points in the quarter and grabbed 3 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to equal a red hot Lights offense.
UGF's defense struggled to stay in front of attacking players, leading to fouls, layups, or open kick outs. Taking advantage of those defensive shortcomings, the Lights shot almost 70 percent in the third quarter, and went to the free-throw line 12 times.
By the end of the period, the Lady Argos were doing all they could just to keep the score within 20 points. Thanks to 8 fourth quarter points from senior center Kalani Ulufale, the score did stay in the teens for the rest of the game, but only just, with a final of 81-63.
McDonagh and Faupel were the clear standings in the game. Both players finished with 25 points, with Faupel added 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. McDonagh was a hair shy of those numbers, but still had an impressive stat that included seven rebounds and two steals.
Ulufale's 8 points to finish the game made her UGF's second leading scorer and rebounder, behind McDonagh in both categories, with 11 points and 6 rebounds.
The loss puts UGF on the brink of a double-digit losing streak, with the number currently at nine consecutive losses and a record of 12-14 (1-14). The next chance to break that streak will be a road game against Carroll College on Friday, February 17 at 5:30 p.m. Carroll has beat UGF in their previous two meetings this year.