Montana Downs Austin Peay, Wins Lady Griz Classic (Photo Gallery)

By JOEL CARLSON| Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Montana women’s basketball coach Robin Selvig has been preaching patience since his team’s first practice on Oct. 8. He stuck with the same message as players returned from injury and the Lady Griz got off to a 2-4 start. The lesson, as always: never doubt the wisdom of a coach with 828 wins.

Led by emerging star Kayleigh Valley, who was voted the tournament MVP, Montana won the 34th Lady Griz Classic presented by Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown with a commanding 83-62 victory over Austin Peay Saturday night in front of 2,564 fans at Dahlberg Arena.

Combined with Friday night’s 68-44 defeat of Utah Valley, Montana won its fifth straight game and takes a 7-4 record into Big Sky Conference play, which opens Jan. 1 at Northern Colorado.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress, and we’re starting to put it together,” said Selvig, whose team won the tournament for the 31st time and improved to 65-3 as host.

“We’re getting some players healthy, and we’re developing some depth. We’ll need to keep getting a lot better, because there are some really good teams in the league.”

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Kayleigh Valley was named the tournament MVP. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com

Valley, who is more and more imposing herself on the game instead of settling for an ancillary role, was the easy choice for MVP. She averaged 20 points on 59.1 percent shooting in Montana’s two wins and showed she can play both inside and beyond the 3-point line.

After scoring 17 points in just 18 foul-plagued minutes in Friday’s win, Valley had a career-high 23 points against the Lady Govs (3-9). She shot better than 50 percent in both games, went 4 for 8 from the arc and got to the line a team-high 13 times.

“In both games this weekend, Kayleigh was consistently good for us,” said Selvig. “She consistently scored the ball and had a heck of a tourney.”

Kellie Rubel scored 19 points and added seven assists against zero turnovers, and finished with three of Montana’s 13 blocks against Austin Peay to make the all-tournament team for the second straight year.

Rounding out the team were Tiasha Gray and Madison Rich of Austin Peay, Sadie Stipanovich of Saint Louis, which defeated Utah Valley 68-66 in Saturday’s consolation game, and the Wolverines’ Mariah Seals.

Montana shot below 40 percent for the eighth time in 11 games in Saturday’s championship, but the Lady Griz still led for the final 36 minutes. Montana outrebounded Austin Peay 55-37, scored 27 second-chance points, turned the ball over just seven times and held the Lady Govs to 33.3 percent shooting.

Valley and Rubel had plenty of help. Maggie Rickman ripped down a career-high 15 rebounds, six better than her previous high, Carly Selvig had 10 rebounds and six blocks, giving her 29 rejections the last four games, and Shanae Gilham and Rachel Staudacher both scored eight points off the bench.

Rickman, who added nine points and a season-high four assists, had eight of her rebounds in the second half, when the Lady Griz were out-boarding the Lady Govs 27-12.

“The second half Maggie just came to life,” said Selvig. “I’ve been on Maggie to board it better this year, and tonight she did. And a lot of those were tough rebounds. She got a couple of shots down, too, and had four assists.”

Austin Peay’s Tearra Banks, a mountain of a post player with a deceptively sweet touch around the rim, scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting in APSU’s 86-81 victory over Saint Louis on Friday, and it was clear early on that the Lady Govs wanted to get her touches deep in the lane against Selvig.

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Kellie Cole Rubel was named to the All-Tournament Team. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com

Banks challenged Selvig in the first minute and missed. Her next shot, in the game’s second minute, was blocked by Selvig. And Banks was hardly to be heard from again. She got into early foul trouble and made just two baskets on the night in 18 minutes of work.

“She couldn’t shoot over Carly to start with, so she wasn’t shooting with confidence,” said Selvig, whose team has had 11 or more blocks in four of its last five games. “Defense is never a one-person deal, but I thought Carly was big enough to change (Banks’) shot.”

Gray, who had a triple-double in Austin Peay’s win on Friday, did everything she could to keep her team close, but besides Rich’s three 3-pointers and 12 points off the bench, the Lady Govs didn’t have enough to keep up with Montana’s balance and depth.

Gray scored 23 points, just above her season average, but one night after dealing out a dozen assists and helping her team shoot 50.8 percent, Gray had just one dime against the Lady Griz and Rubel, her primary defender.

“She’s a really, really good player, and I thought Kellie did a heck of a job on her. Not only did Kellie do a nice job on her, she handled it against her as well,” said Selvig.

Austin Peay took an early 6-5 advantage, but a Rickman jumper started a 10-0 run that gave Montana a lead it would never give back. The Lady Griz led 32-26 at the half.

The lead remained six in the opening minutes of the second half. That’s when Montana used the 3-point ball to pull away for good. Valley, Rickman, Gilham and Rubel all hit triples, and the lead was 22, 59-37, by the midpoint of the second half.

Gray, who scored 13 points in the second half, helped Austin Peay trim the lead to 11, 63-52, with still more than six minutes to play, but Valley hit a 3-pointer and Rubel added one of her own to build the lead back to a comfortable 17 points.

The Lady Griz went 7 for 16 (.438) from the arc in the second half.

Montana led Utah Valley for more than 34 minutes on Friday and held an advantage on Austin Peay on Saturday for more than 36 minutes. Those two teams combined to shoot 28.1 percent.

“The ladies had a pretty good weekend. To not go to the wire against either one is pretty good,” said Selvig. “We put a little run together heading into Christmas, and it feels pretty good.”

Montana will be tested in its very first week of league games, when it opens at Northern Colorado and North Dakota. The Bears are 6-5. UND, the defending tournament champion and preseason favorite, is 8-3.

Montana Sports Information

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Lady Griz Classic 12/20/14 Photo by ©William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
Lady Griz Holiday Cl...
Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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Lady Griz Holiday Classic 12/20/14. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com
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