Dan Nielson UVU wbb practice

Utah Valley women's basketball coach Dan Nielson directs his team during practice at the NUVI Center.

Montana State University held off a late Utah Valley University charge to win, 66-63, on Saturday afternoon in the UCCU Center.

UVU (2-1) trailed by 10 entering the final quarter and got within three on multiple occasions. The Bobcats (3-3) led 63-60 in the final minute when Katelynn Limardo hit a deep 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and make it a 6-point game with just 14.8 seconds left. Shay Fano came back with a three on the other end with 6.9 to go but time would run out on UVU.

“Playing a team like Montana State, they’re a young team but that coaching staff is so good. There’s a reason they’ve won so many Big Sky championships,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson. “But I was proud of our girls, we continued to fight. We had a lot of rust, but we saw some spurts, especially in the first and fourth quarters. Definitely back to the drawing board but it’s a good steppingstone to get us ready for conference.”

Josie Williams led UVU with 17 points and eight rebounds while Fano added 13 points and Madison Grange added 10 off the bench for the Wolverines, who hadn’t played a game since Dec. 10 due to multiple COVID-19 cancelations. Limardo led MSU with 15 points and Gabby Mocchi finished with 13 off the bench.

Utah Valley outrebounded Montana State, 40-29, but struggled to take care of the basketball. The Bobcats scored 22 points off of 23 UVU turnovers.

The Wolverines connected on four of their first six attempts of the game and took an 11-5 lead after a Fano 3-pointer. The Bobcats responded with an 8-0 run to take a 13-11 lead with 3:29 left in the quarter. Utah Valley finished the first by scoring seven of the final nine points, four coming from Williams, to lead 18-15 after one.

Montana State outscored the Wolverines 15-4 over the first seven minutes of the second quarter to take a 30-22 lead. Late 3-pointers by Grange and Nehaa Sohail helped chip into the deficit and Utah Valley trailed 33-28 at the break.

Utah Valley was behind 38-35 at the 7:21 mark of the third after a pair of free throws from Grange before a 9-0 spurt gave Montana State a 47-35 lead. The Bobcats led 52-39 late in the quarter when Grange knocked down her second three of the game just before the horn to make 52-42 after three.

The Wolverines trimmed the 10-point deficit to three, 54-51, in the first four minutes of the fourth behind a 7-0 run that was capped by a no-look feed from Eleyana Tafisi to Williams for two, forcing a timeout. Montana State came out of the timeout with its own quick 7-0 spurt over the next 90 seconds to push it back to 10.

Williams knocked down a three, hit two from the line, and Maria Carvalho scored on a driving layup to again get the Wolverines within three, 61-58, with 2:16 remaining. The teams traded buckets on the ensuing possessions with Kayla Anderson scoring with 1:28 left to make it 63-60 before Limardo sealed the win for MSU.

The Wolverines were 23-for-49 (46.9%) from the field and hit 7-for-16 (43.8%) from three. Montana State converted on 23-for-59 (39%) and 10-for-28 (35.7%) from beyond the arc.

Utah Valley will open WAC play next week at California Baptist with games on Friday and Saturday. CBU was picked by the media to win the conference and is 8-0 so far this season, while the Wolverines were the coaches’ pick to finish first.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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