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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – As two of Linfield's six double-digit scorers, rookies Grace McMillan and Riley Graham scored 12 points apiece, both career highs, to guide the Wildcats to a lopsided 88-49 victory over Blackburn Sunday afternoon inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
McMillan hit 5-for-9 from the floor and had seven points by the break, while Graham found success in the second half from the field and the charity stripe. Veterans Kaely Maltman and Katelyn Henson added 11 points each and Taylor Solomon and Dani Krier combined for 20 more as Linfield (4-8) capped off the calendar year on a winning note.
Needing a few trips down the court to shake off some post-holiday rust – and for a Blackburn, a long drive from Illinois – neither team found the bottom of the net until Solomon knocked down a 3-pointer with nearly two minutes gone from the game clock.
Blackburn's Briana Rae responded with two of her seven first-half points, but from then on it was nearly all Wildcats as Linfield put together an 18-0 run over a nearly seven-minute stretch. The ‘Cats did all of their damage in the paint, save a trio of free throws and a transition 3-pointer from Jessica McMillan, to gain a 21-2 advantage with 11:08 until intermission.
Defensively, the Wildcats relied on a stingy defense that held the Beavers (1-8) scoreless for nearly seven minutes, and to 17 total first-half points on 16.2 shooting from the field. Blackburn did not score again until the 10:35 mark of the opening half when Andie Marvel connected from the top of the key. Rae's second-chance put-back in the paint brought the Beavers to within 14, but the visitors would get no closer the rest of the night.
Sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from the younger McMillan and Solomon, Linfield outscored Blackburn 17-10 over the final 9:12 for a 40-17 halftime lead. The ‘Cats shot 40.5 percent from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
Sloppy play at the visitor's expense helped the Wildcats expand their lead substantially in the second half. Benefitting from seven Blackburn turnovers, many of them unforced, in the first five minutes, Linfield scored easily in transition and rarely had to get into its offensive sets. When it did, the Wildcats scored at will, such as on a perfectly executed setup for Annalise Beshears on the left block.
Linfield continued to pour it on in through the midway point of the second period. A Kaleigh Phillips layup with 10:02 to play gave Linfield its biggest lead of the game, 71-24. Only a buzzer-beating transition 3-pointer from Marvel kept the final scoring differential at fewer than 40 points.
However, after a slow start, in which the Beavers failed to score until Rae's jumper with 15:08 on the clock, Blackburn's offense fared far better in the second half, totaling 32 points at a 33.3 percent clip. The visitors also outscored the ‘Cats 25-17 over the final 10 minutes. Rae led all players with 23 points, while Shelby Smith added 11, all in the second half.
Rae also pulled in a game-high 15 rebounds for the Beavers, including 10 on the offensive end of the floor.
Ten total players scored for Linfield, which recorded season highs for points (88) and, not surprisingly, enjoyed one of its better shooting nights of the year at 46.7 percent. The Wildcats hit a season-best 41.7 of their looks from beyond the arc, knocking down eight 3-pointers in all.
Maltman paced Linfield with eight rebounds, and led all players with eight assists. Catie Mets added six more dimes, while Jessica McMillan registered a whopping six blocks.
AHEAD: Northwest Conference action resumes Saturday evening in Tacoma against Puget Sound. Tipoff between the Wildcats and Loggers is set for 6 p.m.