Lady Griz Shut down Bears, Win 58-46

By JOEL CARLSON | WILLIAM MUNOZ

Montana got 20 points from Kayleigh Valley and stayed on the heels of the Big Sky Conference leaders with a 58-46 victory over Northern Colorado Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena.

The Lady Griz (11-5, 4-1 BSC) built a 28-18 halftime lead and led by 10 or more for most of the second half despite going 3 for 20 from 3-point range in the game.

Montana held the Bears (7-8, 2-3 BSC) to 38.6 percent shooting and 16 points below their season scoring average.

“That’s as good as we’ve played defensively this year,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, whose team entered the game allowing 62.2. “I’m really happy with how we came out and worked and talked and made it tough for Northern Colorado to score, particularly in the first half.

“Everybody did a good job on the defensive end, and that was the key. If you go 3 for 20 from three and you’re not playing some good defense, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Valley went 8 for 12 to finish right at her season scoring average, McCalle Feller added 15 points, Alycia Sims had 13 on 5-of-8 shooting, and Haley Vining matched her career high with seven assists.

Robin Selvig

Robin Selvig. Photo By William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com

Though the Lady Griz missed 14 of their first 15 shots from the 3-point line, it was a pair of triples that finally broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

After Rebecca Howell pulled Northern Colorado within seven, 44-37, with eight minutes left, Feller hit from the top of the key. On Montana’s next possession, Feller drove the lane and found Vining spotted up on the right wing. Her shot made it 50-37.

Valley scored a minute later to make it 52-37 and put the game out of reach.

The 3-point shot was a storyline for both teams, because Northern Colorado entered the game ranked 16th in the nation in threes made per game at 8.6.

Not only were the Bears limited to just four makes, they only attempted 10, a season low for a team averaging more than 25 per game. It forced Northern Colorado to play extra deliberately, often deep into the shot clock.

“The thing with them is you can’t play defense for six or seven seconds,” said Selvig. “They run good offense, so you’d better be ready to work for 25 seconds or they’re going to get a good shot.

“We played hard the whole possession almost every time tonight, and I really like to see that. We haven’t held a team in the 40s for a while.”

The 3-for-20 effort from 3-point range was about the only black mark on an otherwise sparkling box score.

Montana was 20 for 34 (.588) from inside the arc, had 16 assists on 23 baskets and turned the ball over just eight times, a big change for a team that had 45 on last week’s road trip to Portland State and Sacramento State.

“We passed the ball well and did a good job taking care of it,” said Selvig. “They are a good defensive team. It’s not easy to get shots. The game would have been easier if we’d made some of our open threes. That would have buried them.

“All in all a pretty good night for us. Every win is a good one in this league.”

Kourteney Zadina led Northern Colorado with 12 points.

The win keeps Montana one of four teams with a single league loss. All are chasing Montana State (12-4, 5-0 BSC), a 69-61 winner over North Dakota Thursday night, and Eastern Washington (10-6, 4-0 BSC), an 85-82 winner at Southern Utah.

The Lady Griz will host UND (5-11, 1-4 BSC) Saturday at 2 p.m. before playing its next three on the road.

In other league games Thursday, Weber State won 102-73 at home over Portland State, Sacramento State won 68-59 at Idaho State, and Idaho won 72-51 at Northern Arizona.

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