Lady Griz Open Regular Season Sunday


The Montana women’s basketball team will open its 2015-16 regular season on Sunday with a home game against Seattle. The Lady Griz and Redhawks will tip off at 1 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena.

Sunday’s game will mark the start of four home games in eight days for Montana, which hosts MSU Northern on Tuesday, Pacific on Thursday and Portland next Sunday.

Coverage: All four games will air locally on KGVO 101.5 FM/1290 AM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. Because of the Bob Stitt radio show on Tuesday, the contest against MSU Northern will not have a pregame show.

All four games will have video streaming through, as well as live stats.

Upcoming: MSU Northern, off to a 4-0 start, is ranked No. 6 nationally in NAIA. Carroll and Great Falls, teams Montana defeated in exhibition games, also were ranked nationally. The Skylights were picked to win the Frontier Conference ahead of the Saints and Argos. Tuesday’s game will be an exhibition for Northern.

Pacific (1-0) got the coach Bradley Davis era off to a successful start with an 80-74 win at Cal State Bakersfield Friday night, breaking the Roadrunners’ 22-game home-court winning streak. (Lynne Roberts turned a 21-10 record last season into the head coaching job at Utah.) Montana lost at Pacific last November 62-50 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. The Tigers play at UC Davis on Monday before traveling to Missoula.

Portland, which is coming off a 4-26 season, will play three games before facing Montana next Sunday. The Pilots will host Willamette on Saturday and Oregon State on Monday, then play at Montana State on Friday. Montana used a big second half to win 69-55 at Portland last December.

First up, Seattle: The Redhawks opened their season Friday night with an 80-51 home loss to Montana State, which got 18 points from Jasmine Hommes. Seattle was led by Taelor Ross’s 18 points and Ashlyn Lewey’s 14-point, 12-rebound double-double.

Seattle shot 29.8 percent and turned the ball over 22 times, a familiar sight to anyone who watched the Montana-Seattle game last winter at SU’s Connolly Center. The Lady Griz, who went 5-for-31 from 3-point range, won 70-64 in overtime despite shooting 29.9 percent. The Redhawks shot 32.4 percent.

“It was ugly,” said coach Robin Selvig. “It was one of those games where neither team made shots. We shot poorly and so did they, but I’m not complaining about the win.”

Four players who started at least half the team’s games last season are back, led by Ross. The 6-foot-2 center averaged 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds last season, both team highs, as Seattle finished 10-21.

Seattle was picked third out of eight teams in the WAC preseason coaches’ poll, behind New Mexico State and CSU Bakersfield. The Redhawks received one first-place vote. Ross was named preseason first-team All-WAC, sophomore guard Crystal Allen second team.

“They have most of their starters back. They’ll have a year more experience than the last time we saw them, and they’ll have had a game on Friday,” said Selvig. “They have a really good post player who’s a big, strong girl and a good scorer in the post.

“They play good, solid man defense and did a little pressuring last year when they faced us.”

One key to Montana’s victory at Seattle last season: The Lady Griz, who had a 58-48 rebounding advantage, did not turn it against that pressure. Montana had just 13 giveaways.

Coaching legends square off: Montana coach Robin Selvig, in his 38th year, enters the season with a career record of 845-275. He ranks No. 5 in victories among the winningest active Division I women’s basketball coaches, behind North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (961 wins), Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (953), Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer (952) and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (917).

Seventh-year Seattle coach Joan Bonvicini, who had previous coaching stops at Long Beach State and Arizona, also has seen and done some things. She has 692 career wins to rank No. 10 among active coaches.

She won 287 games while coaching at Arizona for 17 seasons, from 1991 to 2008. She started her coaching career at Long Beach State in 1979. She won 325 games with the 49ers and led them to back-to-back Final Fours, in 1987 and ’88.

“She is one of the pioneers of women’s basketball,” said Selvig. “She’s been doing it a long time and has had some great teams that she’s taken to Final Fours. She’s a really good coach.”

Montana breakdown (No. 1): For starters, who will start Sunday? Against Carroll in the opening exhibition game, Selvig went with senior Haley Vining at the point, senior McCalle Feller at the two, senior Hannah Doran at the three, junior Kayleigh Valley at the four and junior Alycia Sims at the five.

Against Great Falls, sophomore Mekayla Isaak, who played the four, bumping Valley to the three, replaced Doran in the starting lineup for a pair of reasons: Selvig wanted to start all his seniors in the exhibition opener, and he likes the idea of Doran, who can provide an offensive spark, coming off the bench.

“I kind of like Hannah coming off the bench, because she can bring us offense when we might be needing it,” said Selvig. “I’ve always liked having someone coming off the bench who can come in and knock down a three, and Hannah’s been pretty good at providing some spark.

“But I don’t think it makes much of a difference who is starting. Those kids are all going to play a lot.”

Montana breakdown (No. 2): What was the main takeaway from Montana’s 59-54 victory over Carroll and its 81-52 win over Great Falls? That the Lady Griz still have a lot of work to do and will be a work in progress throughout November and December.

“I don’t think there is any one thing in particular. We just have a lot of getting better to do,” said Selvig. “We can improve in all areas, but it’s early in the season. You just want to see improvement every time out.

“We’ll see more athleticism now than we did in the exhibitions. We shouldn’t have a problem adjusting to it, but it will be different than we’ve seen. That’s why you play a nonconference schedule, to face all different kinds of teams to get you ready for league.”

Montana breakdown (No. 3): One of the big questions for the Lady Griz coming out of last season, when fifth-year senior point guard Kellie Rubel, the Big Sky Conference co-MVP, played 35 minutes per game, was the point guard position.

If the exhibition games are any indication, both Vining, a fifth-year senior, and redshirt freshman Sierra Anderson will get plenty of court time. Vining played 24 minutes against Carroll, 23 against Great Falls. Anderson played 18 in both off the bench.

“I feel good about the point and the depth we have. I think we’re in good hands,” said Selvig. “Haley is healthy and playing well, and Sierra is providing some spark off the bench.

“That’s another situation where I don’t think it makes any difference who starts. Both are very capable, which means we won’t have to have someone tired playing there.”

Montana breakdown (No. 4): The Lady Griz have not had a really good shooting team — defined for this purpose as 43 percent — since 2007-08. Five of Montana’s last six teams have had a season shooting percentage below 40 percent.

The season ahead will tell what kind of shooting team this group of Lady Griz will be, but if the exhibition games are any indication, expect something in the high 30s once again, with something in the 40s a reason to celebrate. Montana shot 36.8 percent against Carroll and 37.0 percent against Great Falls.

Montana went 4-for-16 from 3-point range against the Saints, 3-for-20 against the Argos.

It’s early, so Selvig will exercise patience. “Shooting the ball makes a difference. Hopefully this team shoots the ball well consistently from the perimeter.”

Montana breakdown (No. 5): What version of Alycia Sims will Lady Griz fans see this season? Against Carroll, Sims scored just two points in 27 minutes on 1-of-6 shooting. Five days later a different player had taken over Sims’ uniform. She went 10-for-15, was perfect at the line and scored 25 points in 26 minutes.

Sims averaged 4.1 points last season on decent 43.2 percent shooting while playing 15 minutes per game. She’ll be playing at least 10 minutes more per game this season.

“As players get more experience, they give you more consistency. Hopefully you know what you’re going to get,” said Selvig.

“Alycia was taking shots (against Great Falls), and they were going in. Other games she’s looked like she’s not sure what she’s going to do when she gets it. As you get older you get more confident and sure of what you’re going to do, so (her performance against Great Falls) was nice to see.”

Montana breakdown (No. 6): The preferred early-season schedule for coaches: Play a game, then get a few practices to address things that did not go well and prepare for the opponent ahead. The preferred early-season schedule for players: Games, and lots of them.

The latter will get their wish early on as Montana plays four games in eight days. The schedule will then slow down into something closer to a league-type schedule, with late-week games spread nicely apart.

But for this first week, it’s games, games and more games.

“It will nice to get some players some experience, because that’s what this team needs more than anything, but it will be a hectic week, and you need to make sure you don’t overdo it,” said Selvig.

“You’ve got to be careful if you have kids who play a lot of minutes. You can’t overdo it in practice. We’ll go over things we’re going to see from the next team, but they won’t be real long practices (on the days in between). The kids will like it. They like playing games.”

Around the league: Big Sky Conference teams got off to a mostly good start Friday night, highlighted by Montana State’s 29-point win at Seattle. Northern Colorado, behind 15 points from Savannah Smith, also won on the road, taking a 60-51 decision at Denver.

Eastern Washington, Weber State and Idaho State all picked up home-court victories over outmanned opponents.

The Eagles, behind 24 points from Hayley Hodgins, won 64-40 over Eastern Oregon, the Wildcats, who got 13 points from freshman Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman, scored an 86-60 win over Bethesda College, and the Bengals, behind Apiphany Woods’ 13-point, 10-rebound double-double, won 82-56 over Colorado Christian.

North Dakota fell 81-63 at Iowa, Portland State lost 84-69 at Cal State Fullerton, a team Montana will host on Sunday, Dec. 6.