By JOEL CARLSON
Montana got its first Big Sky Conference road trip of the season off to a successful start Thursday night, winning 79-58 at Portland State behind Kayleigh Valley’s 29 points.
The Lady Griz (10-4, 3-0 BSC) went up 36-21 at the break and led by 11 or more the entire second half to remain unbeaten in league. McCalle Feller added 25 points as Montana won its fifth straight game.
After a sluggish first quarter that had them leading by just one, 13-12, the Lady Griz finally found some offensive rhythm in the second and outscored the Vikings (2-11, 0-2 BSC) 23-9 to build a comfortable halftime margin. Portland State was 3 for 18 in the second quarter.
Valley had 14 points at the break, Feller 11.
“I thought we came out ankle deep. We just weren’t quite going,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “Then we got it going before the half. And our defense was really good the first half.”
Montana scored 10 of the first 11 points of the third quarter to take a 46-22 lead, then the game devolved into a scrappy mess, full of turnovers and trips to the foul line.
Unable to score out of its offense, Portland State, which shot 26.5 percent for the game, resorted to extended defensive pressure and drives to the basket. And Montana, which had 14 turnovers and 13 fouls in the second half, obliged.
The lead was never in jeopardy, but a 10-0 run by the Vikings cut their deficit to 46-32, and they got it down to 11 in the fourth quarter, 66-55, before Montana scored 13 points the final three minutes to inflate the final margin.
“They were behind, so they were either going to roll over or get after us, and they got after us,” said Selvig. “It was one of those games you just feel like you’re rolling in the mud. Nothing was smooth about the second half.
“They’re fouling, we’re fouling, and when you’re ahead, you should not be the team fouling.”
Portland State got to the line 18 times in the second half, 25 for the game, the second-highest total for a Lady Griz opponent this season. Montana’s 20 turnovers were a season high by four.
“They couldn’t throw it in the ocean, so they’re putting their heads down and going to the hole,” said Selvig. “But you can’t bail them out when they’re going to the hole and just throwing stuff up.
“And we turned it over way too much. If you’re strong with it, you can burn them, and we didn’t burn them enough. If we play a little stronger, we probably score 90.”
None of which should overshadow another big game from Valley, who reached a career-high 29 points for the third time this season and has opened Big Sky with scoring games of 29, 27 and 29 points on 52.7 percent shooting.
Feller added 25, her fourth time in five games scoring 25 or more, and Montana got nice contributions from Alycia Sims and Hannah Doran.
Sims, who sprained her ankle in Saturday’s 66-60 win over Southern Utah, had nine points and 11 rebounds. Doran came off the bench to add nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and seven boards.
“Thank goodness Alycia was able to play. She hasn’t practiced since that sprained ankle, but she was a force rebounding and on defense. She was a warrior tonight,” said Selvig, who played Sims 31 minutes.
“And Hannah played great. She made shots, and she got some big offensive rebounds. She had a very big game.”
Mekayla Isaak added nine rebounds and four blocks, and point guards Haley Vining and Sierra Anderson combined for 10 of the team’s 17 assists, though the pair also had eight turnovers. Feller had five.
The night produced the type of box score that will have Sacramento State, Saturday afternoon’s opponent, licking its chops. The Hornets feast on turnovers and are much better at creating them — and making them hurt — than the Vikings.
“This was a little warmup,” said Selvig, whose team shot 47.5 percent. “We need to be better on Saturday.”
The Hornets (4-9, 1-1 BSC) will go into Saturday’s game still stinging from Thursday’s 80-79 loss to Montana State, which joins Montana atop the Big Sky standings at 3-0. Hannah Caudill hit a 3-pointer off a baseline-out-of-bounds play with 6.7 seconds remaining to give the Bobcats the victory.
In other league games Thursday, Weber State, which scored the game’s final six points, won 62-56 at North Dakota, and Northern Colorado defeated Idaho State 48-47 in Greeley on a short jumper by Kourteney Zadina with seconds left.
Montana Sports Information