BOZEMAN — Boosted by career nights for Darian White and Gabby Mocchi, the Montana State women’s basketball team overcame a 14-point second-half deficit Monday night in Idaho.
White scored a personal-best 32 points, including 21 in the second half, and Mocchi had a career-high 21 points as the Bobcats won their eighth straight game, a 96-84 decision in Moscow, Idaho.
The Vandals held a 77-68 lead for three quarters and then shot 2 of 12 in the final 10 minutes, picking up just seven points the rest of the way. MSU, meanwhile, shot 10 of 16, including four 3-pointers, to claim the win.
“It was a really, really good second half,” Bobcats head coach Tricia Binford said in a phone interview. “It’s a team that’s together, a team that fights for each other and a team that believes. I thought they were capable of weathering this storm.
With the win, the Bobcats took sole possession of first place in the Big Sky Conference. They are 15-8 overall and 10-2 in the league, just ahead of Idaho State, which is 14-8 overall and 10-3 in the Big Sky.
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White’s production surpassed his previous high of 29 points on Dec. 30 at Weber State. Mocchi’s 21 points were her best since scoring 18 at Portland State on Jan. 16, 2021. The 96 points are also the highest for MSU this season, beating Northern Arizona’s 88 points on Jan. 20.
The Vandals led 51-46 at halftime, and it was only so close thanks to a desperate 3-pointer Mocchi flying off the glass as time expired in the second quarter. It was one of four 3s for the senior.
Early in the third quarter, Mocchi and Kola Bad Bear each hit a pair of free throws to help close Idaho’s lead. White hit a jumper to draw the Bobcats four points, 56-52, with 8 minutes and 11 seconds left.
Idaho then scored on consecutive possessions to regain a nine-point lead. The Vandals’ lead grew to 14 points twice in the third quarter, the last time with a minute remaining.
In the fourth, White scored nine points, had two interceptions and assisted on four baskets. She finished with eight assists, six rebounds, three steals and a 13-of-21 performance from the field.
“An MVP took over for us,” Binford said of White.
After a white jumper took MSU to 80-73, Idaho’s Beyonce Bea hit a return shot. It was the Vandals’ last field goal of the game with 7:34 left.
White then assisted on three straight possessions: 3-pointers from Leia Beattie and Katelynn Limardo that were sandwiched around a Mocchi layup. Limardo’s shot cut Idaho’s lead to 82-81, and Bad Bear added free throws for MSU’s first lead since midway through the first quarter.
Idaho’s last points came on free throws from Allison Kirby with 4:48 left. White hit a jumper 20 seconds later to put MSU ahead for good.
Bad Bear finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Limardo had 10 points and six rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. And Beattie had eight points and six rebounds.
“They were obviously super hot, but our kids believed and we stepped up and we found ways,” Binford said. “Gabby Mocchi put in a great performance, Darian White was a star tonight but it was a complete team effort.”
Mocchi shot 7 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from the foul line. She had three rebounds and a steal.
“The No. 1 thing about Gabby is that this whole team trusts her,” Binford said. “She makes good plays. She makes her teammates shine. She is consistently reliable in all categories, and she was one of the hot hands tonight.
Idaho (5-14, 4-6) had four players scoring in double figures at halftime and five at the end of the game. Kirby and Louise Forsyth each had 18, and Bea had 16. Tiana Johnson provided 14 and Paris Atchley added 10.
The Bobcats will stay on the road for the rest of the week with games Thursday and Saturday at Portland State and Northern Arizona, respectively.
“We’re going to see what this team is made of,” Binford said of the schedule.
On Monday at least, the Bobcats showed the power of belief in their comeback.
“Right now the mentality is they’re going to have the best game ever, and they’re going to have to step up and they’re going to have to play their best game every night,” Binford said. “We have to earn everything we get when we get to that floor, and I think they understand that.”
Parker Cotton can be reached at [email protected] or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @ByParkerCotton.