Central women rally from early deficit to stun MSU Billings, 65- - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Central women rally from early deficit to stun MSU Billings, 65-59

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BILLINGS, Mont. -- Senior Sophie Russell (Olympia, Wash./River Ridge HS) scored a career-high 28 points, as the Central Washington University women's basketball team earned its first road win in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game in two seasons with a 65-59 come-from-behind victory over Montana State University Billings on Saturday night at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

The Wildcats improved to 5-9 overall and 2-5 in GNAC play with their first road win in a conference game since Jan. 30, 2010, also at MSU Billings. The Yellowjackets fell to 12-7 overall and 4-4 in the GNAC.

Russell scored 16 of Central's first 20 points in the game, making 6 of her 10 first-half shot attempts, and the Wildcats kept it close at halftime (33-25) despite having just three players score before the intermission. In the second half, Russell was again the top scorer for CWU, totaling 12 including 6 of 6 at the free throw line, but had plenty of scoring help. Juniors Stacy Albrecht (Federal Way, Wash./Thomas Jefferson HS) and Alex Dunn (West Valley City, Utah/Hunter HS) each tallied seven points in the final stanza, while sophomore Jessica VanDyke (Chester, Mont./Chester-Joplin-Inverness HS) pulled down 11 of her career-high 16 rebounds in the second half.

"We got down early, and spent the first half scrapping to get back in the game," CWU head coach Shawn Nelson said. "Sophie (Russell) had a great half with 16 to keep us in the game."

The Wildcats' second-half comeback began after CWU matched Montana State Billings on the scoreboard in the early part of the period. After cutting the deficit to one at the 12:52 mark, Central Washington tied the game a minute later. After the last of four ties in the game at 52-52 with 8:46 left, the Wildcats went ahead on a free throw by Melanie Valdez (Richland, Wash./Chiawana HS) one minute later and did not trail again, outscoring the Yellowjackets 13-7 over the final 7:46, making 7 of 10 free throws during that span.

"The team buckled down in the second half," Nelson added. "We played great defensively and held (MSUB) to one shot (per possession) most of the half. I'm very proud of them, as this is the first road conference win for many of them."

Central Washington overcame a game in which it shot just 38.6 percent, including a combined 14 of 41 (34.1 percent) from its top three scorers in VanDyke, Dunn, and Russell. However, that trio accounted for more than half of the team's 51 rebounds, led by VanDyke, the Montana native who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 16 rebounds despite making just 2 of 11 field-goal attempts.

Russell's 28 points -- the highest single-game total by a CWU player in nearly three years -- were aided by an 11-point outing from Albrecht and the 10-point, 16-rebound performance of VanDyke.

The Wildcat defense held Montana State Billings to just 33.3 percent shooting, including 31.0 percent in the second half. The Yellowjackets had just two players reach double figures in the scoring column, led by the 17 points of Bobbi Knudsen. Quinn Peoples added 12, and Janiel Olson led MSUB with 11 rebounds.

Central Washington will return home to Nicholson Pavilion for a pair of games next week. The Wildcats will take on archrival Western Washington on Thursday (Jan. 19), and conference upstart Simon Fraser on Saturday (Jan. 21), with both games scheduled for 7 p.m. starts.

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