Lady Griz hold off Bears, win 61-55 (Photo Gallery)

By DAVE GUFFEY for GoGriz.com | Photos by AUSTIN SMITH

Montana withstood a Northern Colorado rally that cut what had been a 15-point, second-half lead to zero to emerge with a 61-55 victory over the Bears Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

The Lady Griz, who won for the 14th straight time at home over a Big Sky Conference opponent, built a 14-point first-half lead and led 44-29 midway through the second half before UNC began its comeback.

The Lady Griz (15-7, 9-4 BSC) went eight minutes with a single field goal, and that allowed Northern Colorado (12-11, 6-8 BSC) to come all the way back and tie the score at 49-49 on two Kim Lockridge free throws with 2:27 remaining.

On Montana’s next possession, senior Jordan Sullivan hit a jumper from the left baseline to give the Lady Griz the lead.

On the other end, junior Carly Selvig came up with a steal at the high post and fed senior Torry Hill near midcourt. Hill passed ahead to junior Kellie Cole, who converted a driving layup while getting fouled. Her free throw gave Montana a 54-49 lead with 1:25 to play.

The Lady Griz went 5 for 6 from the line in the final minute to hold on to their advantage.

“We had given the lead away and hadn’t scored for a long time, so Jordan’s was a huge shot,” UM coach Robin Selvig said. “Then Kellie had a great finish off Torry’s pass. That was the play of the day.”

Cole, who was held without a point in Montana’s last game, a 71-61 loss at Eastern Washington, scored a game-high 18 points. She also added nine rebounds and four assists. Hill had 11 points, eight assists and no turnovers, with three steals.

Aiding Northern Colorado’s comeback was Montana’s 2-for-18 (.111) effort from 3-point range. A 36.1 percent shooting team from 3-point range entering the game, the Lady Griz went 1 for 9 in the first half and 1 for 9 in the second, and they were all clean looks.

“We couldn’t make a three tonight,” Selvig said. “I liked all the threes. I don’t think we took any bad ones. All we had to do was make a couple and we’re in great shape. But we still found a way to win.”

The Lady Griz built a 19-6 lead through the opening 10 minutes and went up 30-16 when freshman Kayleigh Valley finished off a strong move to the basket late in the half.

But Montana would go without a point the final 3:07 of the first half, and that allowed Northern Colorado to cut its halftime deficit to 30-23.

Two straight baskets to open the second half cut the lead to 30-27, but Montana responded with a 10-0 run of its own, started by jumper from Sullivan and capped by a Sullivan three-point play that made it 40-27.

The lead would reach 15 points and was still 46-32 when Northern Colorado started a comeback that ultimately came up short.

“We got up 15, then we just got stuck,” Selvig said. “And they kept battling, like you knew they would. I thought it would be a battle, and it certainly was.

After shooting 36.0 percent in the first half, the Bears opted to go with the dribble drive in the second half, and it almost helped pull out a victory. Northern Colorado went 13 for 13 from the line in the second half, 15 for 16 in the game.

“Defensively we did a nice job all night, though they got to the line too much when we had the lead,” Selvig said. “They not only got free throws, they made all their free throws.”

Despite its struggles from 3-point range, Montana shot 43.1 percent and had 19 assists on its 25 baskets.

Selvig finished with eight points and four assists, Sullivan had nine points and nine rebounds, and Rickman hit four of her five shots to finish with eight points and six rebounds.

Jamie Derrieux lead Northern Colorado, which shot 47.4 percent in the second half to finish at 40.9 percent for the game, with 15 points.

Montana’s victory, combined with North Dakota’s 78-67 loss at Montana State Thursday night, sets up a monster matchup at Dahlberg ArenaSaturday afternoon between the Lady Griz and first-place UND, which won the teams’ first meeting 62-57 last month in Grand Forks.

Montana pulled within one in the loss column of North Dakota with Thursday’s results.

Southern Utah remained in the mix with a 70-66 victory at Idaho State Thursday, and Eastern Washington remained hot with a 79-73 win at Sacramento State. In the day’s other game, Northern Arizona won 84-61 at home over Portland State.

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