Lady Griz Shoot Their Way Past Hornets (Photo Gallery)

By JOEL CARLSON |Photos by AUSTIN SMITH

Montana shot better than 51 percent in both halves and got 61 points from Jordan Sullivan, Kellie Cole and Maggie Rickman to post an 87-76 victory over Sacramento State Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena.

The win clinches at least the No. 3 seed for the Lady Griz at next week’s seven-team Big Sky Conference tournament, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at Grand Forks, N.D.

Though North Dakota lost 73-53 at Southern Utah Thursday night, UND clinched hosting rights with Sacramento State’s loss. SUU, which has won 11 of its last 13, can share the regular-season title with North Dakota with a win at home against Northern Colorado Saturday night.

The tournament field was set Thursday, though seeds won’t be sorted out until Saturday’s five league games are completed. Idaho State made the tournament with an 86-62 victory at home over Eastern Washington, and Montana State clinched a spot with a 99-85 win over Northern Arizona in Bozeman.

Monte by Austin SmithMontana (19-9, 13-6 BSC) had already locked up a spot to the tournament before Thursday’s game, but with a 2-2 record in their last four the Lady Griz entered their two-game home stand looking to build some momentum for their trip to Grand Forks. They got plenty against the Hornets (18-10, 10-9 BSC).

Sullivan had her fifth career double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds, and matched a career high with four blocks, Cole added 21 points, her eighth game this season with 21 or more points, and Rickman finished with a career-high 19 points, as Montana improved to 19-0 at home against Sac State.

Facing a team it lost to in January by a score of 91-81, Montana did not overtly slow the pace down. Instead the Lady Griz made Sac State, the nation’s fifth-highest scoring team, work on the defensive end, then hit the shots they needed to make later in the shot clock.

“I thought we controlled the tempo about how we wanted,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “We tried to slow it down on our end and pass it a few times, because with the way they defend they are going to run around and hopefully get tired.

“You hear the fans yelling, Go, go, go, and there are times to attack, but we didn’t want to go, go, go. Because then you miss it and they go shoot a fast three, and all of a sudden they have one of those runs. We attacked when the situation called for it.”

Montana shot 59.4 percent in the first half, its best-shooting first half of the season, and turned the ball over just five times against Sac State’s frenetic defense.

Sullivan, who hadn’t reached double figures in scoring for an entire game since Feb. 3, had 13 points by the break. Rickman had 11 at the half, Cole 10. Montana also rediscovered its long-missing stroke from 3-point range, going 7 for 12 in the first half.

Carly Selvig by Austin Smith

Carly Selvig by Austin Smith

But Montana only led 49-40 at the half, mostly because Sac State went 8 for 17 from the arc. The seventh of those triples gave the Hornets a new NCAA record for 3-pointers in a season. They finished the game with 15 makes, which gives them 351 for the season.

“They pressed us some in the first half, which we had no trouble with,” Selvig said. “The biggest thing is we shot it real well, which sure makes everything a lot easier.

“We did exactly what we wanted that half. We were patient against their zone, we were making them work, and we were making the shots at the end. That was what we wanted to have happen.”

Montana built a 14-point lead six minutes into the second half, but the 3-point shot and some unforced Lady Griz turnovers allowed the Hornets to cut their deficit to two on a pair of occasions and generally hang around until Montana pulled away in the final four minutes.

“They pressed us harder in the second half, and I thought we got a little frenzy going,” Selvig said. “They had to pick it up when we got them down 14, but all in all, I thought we took care of it pretty well.

“You’re certainly not going to complain about 13 turnovers against these guys.”

Torry Hill finished with nine points to pull with 17 of 1,000 for her career, and Alycia Sims came off the bench to add 6 points, 5 rebounds and a season-high 4 assists.

Hallie Gennett scored 17 points off the bench to lead Sac State. Three players scored 14 points, including Fantasia Hilliard, who also added eight assists and three steals.

Montana’s .559 shooting percentage was its second-highest of the season, and its nine 3-pointers (on 18 attempts) were the most in a game since Feb. 1. The Lady Griz had a 42-39 rebounding advantage, the seventh time in eight games they’ve out-boarded their opponent.

Montana will face Northern Arizona Saturday at 2 p.m. in the team’s regular-season finale. Hill and Sullivan, the team’s lone seniors, will be feted before the game.

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Kellie Cole
Kellie Cole
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Kellie Cole
Kellie Cole
Senior guard Torry Hill earned All-Big-Sky Conference honorable mention honors.
Senior guard Torry H...
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sacstatewomens - Aus...
Senior  Forward Jordan Sullivan was named second team All-Big Sky.
Senior  Forward...
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Junior guard Kellie Cole was voted First-team All-Big Sky Conference .
Junior guard Kellie ...
Redshirt junior forward Carly Selvig was voted the league's Defensive Player of the Year.
Redshirt junior forw...
Jordan Sullivan
Jordan Sullivan