By JOEL CARLSON
McCalle Feller, who was named MVP of the 35th Lady Griz Classic after leading Montana to wins over Florida Atlantic and Utah State last weekend, offers up a simple (and seasonal) reason she was able to light up the Owls and Aggies for 66 points. It’s her favorite time of the year.
“I’m a big Christmas fan, so I was just excited to play,” said Feller, who was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday for the second time in her career. “I always get really happy this time of year.”
Feller brought plenty of holiday joy to the Lady Griz fans in attendance. She scored a career-high 34 points in Saturday’s 83-69 victory over Florida Atlantic and 32 more in Sunday’s 86-70 win over Utah State in the tournament championship game.
She played all but six minutes in the two contests and put up video-game numbers throughout. She hit 24 of her 38 (.632) shots and connected on 12 of 20 (.600) from 3-point range, including a 7-for-9 performance from the arc in Sunday’s win.
Her scoring output by quarter: 7, 9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 14 and finally two in the fourth quarter against Utah State before being removed to a standing ovation worthy of the performance.
Feller’s 34- and 32-point scoring games are the best in the Big Sky Conference this season and make her just the third player in Lady Griz history, along with Shannon Cate and Mandy Morales, to score 30-plus points in consecutive games.
Montana, which shot 51.2 percent in its two wins and went 21 for 42 from the 3-point line, won its 16th straight Lady Griz Classic title, its 32nd overall, and wraps up its nonconference schedule with a 7-4 record.
Montana will enter Big Sky play next week as one of four teams that won a league-high seven nonconference games. Weber State went 7-3, Idaho and Montana State 7-4. Seven of the conference’s 12 teams will enter their Christmas break with a record of .500 or better.
It was only two games, and they came a week after a winless road trip to Colorado State and Wyoming, but Montana, which will return to practice Saturday night following a five-day break, appears to be playing its best basketball of the season.
The Lady Griz trailed for less than three minutes in two tournament games and didn’t face a deficit larger than three points.
“This is where we want to be,” said Feller. “(Coach Robin Selvig) always says we want to be playing our best basketball when it matters. It’s a good feeling knowing we can play together and that the team is starting to click.”
Montana, the preseason league favorite, opens conference hosting Northern Arizona on Dec. 31 and Southern Utah on Jan. 2.
Montana Sports Information