MSU Women's Hoops Scrimmage (copy)

Montana State's Darian White takes the ball in during a scrimmage on Oct. 18 at Worthington Arena.

Two road losses against two top opponents left Montana State feeling sour. The Bobcats were pleased with how they performed, head coach Tricia Binford said, but not with the results.

MSU fell short at South Dakota State, which reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, and Minnesota, which received votes in the AP Top 25. The Bobcats averaged 21 turnovers in the two games and learned they needed more efficient offense to reach their goals.

“Our team was not happy with just being in two games against a mid-major Top 25 and a high-major Top 25 opponent,” Binford said. “They really walked away and felt like there’s some things on our end of the floor that prevented us from winning those games. I think we’re at a point as a program where we need to start having some success and finish those games.”

MSU’s next chance comes at 4 p.m. Saturday at Seattle U. The contest is the third straight on the road for the Bobcats (3-2) before they host No. 22 Gonzaga next week and square off with Wichita State and No. 6 Texas A&M in Puerto Rico in December. The two tests last week against the Jackrabbits and Gophers gave MSU a taste of the difficult competition upcoming.

Through five games, Binford said her team is “in a great place on the defensive end.” Some of the biggest progressions need to be taken on offense. The Bobcats allowed an average of 23 points off turnovers in their two most recent losses, and the margin of defeat was 10 and 11 points.

Taking care of the ball can be improved in practice, according to Binford, as MSU can emphasize valuing possessions and shot selection. The better the teams are that the Bobcats face, the more likely they’ll be to throw them off their game. So playing smart will become vital.

“It was the turnovers in both games to be quite honest,” Binford said of MSU’s games at SDSU and Minnesota. “The opponents at that level are going to challenge you to take care of the basketball, move it side to side. I think at this point in the year, we’re impatient. I think we’ll get there.”

South Dakota State played physically and switched on nearly all screens, making it a struggle to get the ball into the paint for easier shots. In that situation, Binford pointed out the need to move the ball on drive and kicks as well as reversals.

Against Minnesota, the Gophers denied passing options, tempted MSU to penetrate the paint immediately and forced individuals to have to win one-on-one matchups. In order to beat an opponent of that caliber, the Bobcats believe they need to involve as many players as possible rather than relying on isolation plays.

“We need to find some ways to not put it on our individual shoulders when you’re playing that level of talent,” Binford said. “You’ve got to beat them as a team. I like the progression of this group, and this is why we had this schedule.”

Freshman point guard Darian White played 23 minutes and committed a team-high six turnovers at SDSU. Two days later, she played 34 minutes and turned the ball over just twice. But senior forward Fallyn Freije, who was named the Big Sky’s preseason player of the year, had 11 turnovers while scoring that many points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

When reviewing the games, Binford anticipated her players seeing all their missed opportunities.

The Bobcats discussed that in order to win a conference championship, they must at least split back-to-back road games. That starts with smoother offense and less mistakes.

“We got to find a way to play together on the offensive end,” Binford said, “just getting everybody involved.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.