By JOEL CARLSON
You wouldn’t know it from looking at the final score — Seattle 58, Montana 44 — but the Lady Griz appeared to be in control at one point of their season opener Sunday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena, ready to run the Redhawks out of the gym.
A 3-pointer by Hannah Doran, back-to-back threes by McCalle Feller and an inside basket by Mekayla Isaak put Montana up 28-16 late in the second quarter against the team that lost by 29 points at home to Montana State Friday night.
But Montana went the next 10 minutes without scoring — at home, mind you — and put up just 16 points over the final 24 minutes to start 0-1 and raise a number of questions, the first being, Did that really just happen?
“We may have had a worse shooting half in the last 40 years, but I can’t remember one,” said 38th-year coach Robin Selvig, whose team shot 24.6 percent, its lowest percentage since losing 68-38 at Wyoming in November 2009.
“We’re looking to see where we are right now, and right now we’re not very good. If we shoot 24 percent, we’re not going to win any games. Pretty simple.”
Feller finished with a game-high 15 points but missed 14 shots. Kayleigh Valley added 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting but was off her game after picking up three fouls in three minutes late in the first quarter.
Montana’s other three starters went 2-for-16. The bench hit just three of its 20 shots.
“We have a lot of getting better to do,” said Selvig, whose team hosts MSU Northern on Tuesday, Pacific on Thursday and Portland next Sunday. “The good news is we have a bunch of games coming up.”
Early on it looked like it would be another typical early-season game for Montana: defend solidly and shoot just well enough to pick up the win. Both parts of that formula fell apart, as struggles at one end led to issues at the other.
Montana limited Seattle to one field goal in the first quarter and forced seven turnovers to lead 13-9 at the first break. And when the Lady Griz hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions early in the second quarter, a lopsided win to match the Bobcats’ was in the making.
But Montana missed its final five shots of the quarter, which allowed Seattle to close to within 28-25 at the half, and its first nine shots of the second half. Wilma Afunugo put Seattle up 29-28 at the 6:18 mark of the third quarter, and Montana would never hold another lead.
Kaylee Best’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter capped an 18-0 Redhawk run that made it 34-28. Seattle would shoot 41.9 percent in the second half and score 22 points in the paint, a number of them coming on drives from the perimeter that finished at the rim.
“They got to the basket a whole bunch in the second half,” said Selvig. “We got behind, so the girls started pressing. Our on-ball defense wasn’t as good as it was in the first half, and the help defense wasn’t there. We let the frustration from one end hurt us at the other end.
“It’s not like they scored like crazy. We had them in the 50s. When you’re at home, you’d like to think you’d score more than we did. I think we have good shooters on this team. We didn’t have good shooters today.”
Seattle outscored Montana 16-6 in the third quarter, 17-10 in the fourth. There were hints that the Lady Griz might make a comeback, but made shots came one at a time, never in bunches, which allowed Seattle to maintain at least a seven-point lead the entire fourth quarter.
Montana went 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the second half and was 4-for-26 (.154) from the arc for the game.
“We were very impatient against their zone,” Selvig said. “We’re not very experienced, and we had some kids who played a little panicky.
“We played hard, which you’ve got to love, but we didn’t play smart or do the things we were trying to adjust in the game. But give Seattle credit. They kept battling after getting down, and over the last 10 minutes they were the aggressor. They had the better look on their face.”
Best, who went 3-for-6 from the 3-point line, led the Redhawks with 13 points. Taelor Ross, SU’s first-team preseason All-WAC selection, finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
The Redhawks finished with a 50-39 rebounding advantage, aided largely by the number of defensive rebounds that came their way off Montana’s 52 missed shots.
Montana will host MSU Northern Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Skylights are 4-0 and ranked No. 6 nationally in NAIA.
“This is one game. You can’t make more out of it than it is,” said Selvig, for whom it was his 1,121st game. “All this should do is motivate us to be better the next game out. If you’re a competitor and want to be a good team, you come back from this.”