Lady Griz Hold Down Fighting Saints in 30-Point Win

By JOEL CARLSON  | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Riding a three-game losing streak and facing a week off for finals before its next opportunity to play again, the Montana women’s basketball team got just what it needed Sunday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena.

The Lady Griz held Carroll to seven first-half points and rolled to a 64-34 victory over the Fighting Saints to improve to 3-4. Montana held a double-digit lead the final 32 minutes and led by at least 23 points the entire second half.

“We had lost three in a row, which doesn’t feel good, and we’re heading into finals, so I’m glad we were ready to play. We played well offensively, and we did a really good job defensively,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, who was facing Carroll in the regular season for the first time since 1999.

Sophomore Kayleigh Valley scored a game-high 12 points, senior Maggie Rickman added 11 on 5-of-8 shooting, and redshirt senior Kellie Rubel finished with 10 points, four rebounds, four assists, a career-high three blocks and two steals, but it was on the defensive end that the Lady Griz made their mark.

Facing a team that had lost exhibition games by just 10 points at Montana State and by 13 at Boise State, Montana never gave Carroll any breathing room.

Through the opening 13 minutes, the Fighting Saints went 1 for 13 and turned the ball over 11 times. Montana also had nine of its 11 blocks in the first half.

Carroll evened the score at 2-2 in the opening two minutes on a Cassidy Hashley basket inside. The Saints’ only other first-half basket came 11 minutes later, and those would be Carroll’s only baskets, as Montana rolled to a 30-7 halftime lead.

“We had plenty of reasons to be concerned about Carroll. They were coming off a close game against Boise State and had played Montana State to within 10. And we were coming off a game when we didn’t light it up, so you kind of figured this might be a tough one,” said Selvig.

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Lady Griz vs Carroll College. Photo by ©William Munoz for Make it Missoula.

“There are times you hold people down because they are missing good shots. I thought we kept them from getting good shots. The girls really communicated. I think they were ready to go after a tough loss against Wyoming.”

Rubel had been struggling offensively the past two games, shooting 4 for 18 (.222), but she looked confident early on. She hit a soft 15 footer on Montana’s second possession, and her 3-pointer two and a half minutes later put Montana up 7-2.

At 36.7 percent, the Lady Griz didn’t light it up in the first half, but they locked down defensively, turned Carroll’s 13 first-half turnovers into 22 points and committed just three turnovers themselves.

After shooting 9.1 percent (2 for 22) in the first half, Carroll shot 40.9 percent in the second half and put up 27 points. The Saints presented the Lady Griz with a variety of defenses and even sprung a full-court press that resulted in a 10-second backcourt violation for Montana.

The outcome was never in doubt, though, because Montana shot 46.7 percent in the second half and enjoyed a 23-10 rebounding advantage.

“They kept playing hard. They played some zone, and they did some pressing, so we had to perform,” said Selvig. “They didn’t quit when they got behind.”

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Lady Griz vs Carroll College. Photo by ©William Munoz for Make it Missoula.

One reason Carroll never got going offensively was the work Montana did on Bailey Snelling, who averages a team-leading 15.1 points for the Saints and is a 41-percent shooter from 3-point range.

Carroll’s senior guard went 0 for 10 from the field, 0 for 7 from 3-point range, and scored just two points at the free throw line.

“She’s having a really good year for them, and I don’t remember her getting a wide-open three,” said Selvig. “But when the only three you’re going to take is late in the clock because your team can’t get anything else, that’s not going to be a very high percentage.”

Nine players scored for Montana, which got 23 points from its bench.

Redshirt freshman Mekayla Isaak scored a season-high eight points while showing off a high-percentage mid-range jumper. Redshirt junior Hannah Doran, who had had back-to-back double-figure scoring games, was held scoreless, but she hustled her way to a career-high eight rebounds, a team high.

Notes: Carroll was counting the game as an exhibition and remains 5-3 for the season. … Valley went 4 for 4 from the free throw line and is now 34 for 37 (.919) for the season. She has made 23 in a row. … Seven different players blocked shots for Montana. … Rickman scored nine of her 11 points in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting. … The Lady Griz struggled again from 3-point range, going 5 for 19 (.263). They went 3 for 16 (.188) in Thursday’s loss to Wyoming. … Rubel and Feller combined for eight assists and just two turnovers. … Montana has 20 blocked shots the last two games. … The Lady Griz will play at Portland next Sunday, then remain in the Pacific Northwest and face Seattle on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Montana Sports Information

PHOTOS BY WILLIAM MUNOZ. CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE.

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