for this game

Portland St. beats MSU for Big Sky title

Mar 14, 2010 - 12:49 AM By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press Writer

CHENEY, Wash.(AP) -- Claire Faucher came out and missed her first shot of the game, and Portland State's leading scorer worried that it might be a tough night.

She needn't have been concerned.

Faucher hit a Big Sky tournament record eight 3-pointers en route to 26 points as Portland State beat Montana State 62-58 on Saturday to win the tournament and its first trip to the NCAA tournament.

"I'm thankful they were falling tonight," said Faucher, a 5-foot-9 senior guard who made 8-of-16 from 3-point range. Faucher's career high had been five 3-pointers twice.

"I always think before a game that I'm not going to shoot the 3, tonight I'm going to attack," said Faucher, who averages 13 points per game. "Then I come out and start pulling up 3's."

Portland State (18-14) has been living off 3-pointers all season. The Vikings shot a team record 622 of them during the regular season, and 49 more in the first two tournament games. They are making 32 percent of those on the season.

Saturday they made 11-of-30 to bury the Bobcats (18-14).

Portland State won its first Big Sky Conference championship and will be making its initial NCAA appearance since joining Division I in the 1996-97 season. The Vikings, the No. 5 seed, beat perennial power Montana in the semifinals on Friday.

"It means a lot to this program," said coach Sherri Murrell, who has rebuilt the team in her third season. "That's all we are going to expect from here on out."

Sarah Strand had 19 points and Erica Perry 18 to lead Montana State (18-14), the No. 6 seed. The Bobcats upset top-seeded Eastern Washington on Friday to advance to the finals.

The Bobcats were seeking only their second trip to the NCAAs.

Coach Tricia Binford was proud that her team won nine of its previous 11 games to reach the final.

"The Bobcats have had a great season," Binford said.

But they had no answer for Faucher.

"A championship game is when big time players turn up, and Claire Faucher is one of those players," Binford said.

Montana State shot 40 percent to the Vikings' 33 percent, and outrebounded them 46-35. But they also committed 20 turnovers.

Portland State was making its second straight appearance in the championship game, after losing to Montana last year. They were the preseason pick to win the Big Sky. Last year's team played two games in the WNIT, their first postseason appearance.

Eryn Jones added 11 points for Portland State. No one else was in double figures.

Portland State led 29-24 after a first half in which neither team shot well, and consecutive baskets by Kate DePaepe gave the Vikings an early 38-30 lead.

Montana State answered with a 10-2 run, and Katie Bussey's 3-pointer tied the score at 40 with 14:12 left. Faucher hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep the Vikings ahead as the teams traded baskets.

Baskets by Strand and Perry brought Montana State within 51-50. But a layup by Kelli Valentine and Faucher's eighth 3-pointer gave the Vikings a 56-50 lead with 6:30 left.

MSU's Janette Jackson hit a pair of layups to cut PSU's lead to 56-54. After Faucher scored on a breakaway steal, Bussey hit a 3-pointer to lift the Bobcats within 58-57.

Valentine scored on a jumper with 1:33 left, and Montana State missed a couple of shots on the other end to trail 60-57 with a minute left. Portland State inbounded the ball and ran time off the clock. Faucher missed, but Valentine rebounded with 30 seconds left and Montana State was forced to foul.

Jones made a pair of free throws for Portland State, and Perry replied with one of two for Montana State. Faucher's long inbounds pass was intercepted and Montana State had the ball with 13.4 seconds left and trailing 62-58, but the Bobcats turned it over.

In the first half, Portland State missed its first 10 shots but still built a 16-11 lead.

Montana State went six minutes without scoring before consecutive 3-pointers by Strand brought the Bobcats within 18-17 with 5:19 left. Faucher hit a pair of 3's for a 24-19 lead.

Kelly Marchant's 3-pointer lifted Portland State to a 29-24 halftime lead.

The Vikings average more than 21 3-point attempts per game, but hoisted 20 in the first half alone, making seven.

Montana State has appeared in the NCAA tournament once, losing to Washington in the first round in 1993

These teams split the season series, each winning at home.

Montana State fell to 1-7 all-time in Big Sky title games.