BOZEMAN — Tricia Binford didn't mince words when discussing her team's struggles early in the preseason when the Montana State women's basketball team came up empty handed during a five-game November road trip.
"There were times where we lacked focus, we lacked energy, we looked fatigued," Binford said on Monday evening after the Bobcats downed Montana for the seventh straight time. "Under the weather so to speak during that first road trip. It was an opportunity to address some of our issues."
MSU responded to that lackluster stretch by winning its next six games. And after closing out 2021 with a trio of losses — including its lone home defeat to Brigham Young — the Bobcats again responded, this time by winning all four of its games in an eight-day homestand.
The Bobcats now head into the middle portion of their conference schedule with a 6-2 mark in Big Sky play. As Binford puts it, her team's "mentality is totally different right now."
The Bobcats hit the road to face Eastern Washington (4-14, 2-7) on Thursday. MSU's road game against Idaho, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed due to COVID issues within the Vandals program.
Montana State has also faced its share of bouts with COVID this season. It's four-game home stretch was necessitated by having to reschedule its games against Idaho and Montana, which were postponed earlier this month due to COVID cases in the Bobcats' program.
"I think our kids are just hungry to get to play," Binford said. "We thought we were beyond this last year and now we kind of got in the cycle again."
With MSU's home games against the Vandals and Lady Griz rescheduled and book-ended on either side its games against Northern Arizona and Portland State, Binford knew that her team was going to face a very compressed schedule.
"We knew we were gonna have a ton of games," she said. "We are not doing a whole lot in our practice more than game prep and walkthroughs. They're just getting a pretty decent rhythm of competing and playing hard for each other."
And despite the breakneck speed of the past week, the Bobcats found that rhythm.
"You can put one through thirteen kids in and they're gonna bring the exact same energy whether they're starting or not," said junior guard Darian White, who scored 13 points against Montana, trailing just teammate Taylor Janssen who had 14.
White entered Montana State's 1000-point club on Jan. 20 as she racked up 16 points against Northern Arizona. She now hopes to see her team continue what it has started.
"We are hungry to say the least, and we're really excited," White said. "We're taking really big steps these past couple of games and we're gonna keep building from that."