Portland St. 62, Montana St. 58

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.