Lady Griz Win 81-58 in Big Sky Opener

By JOEL CARLSON | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Montana, which won the Lady Griz Classic before taking a break for Christmas, picked up right where it left off in winning its Big Sky Conference opener 81-58 over Northern Arizona Thursday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

Montana (8-4, 1-0 BSC) led by just six at the half, then used a big third quarter to pull away from the Lumberjacks (4-8, 0-1 BSC).

Kayleigh Valley matched her career high with 29 points, McCalle Feller added 26, and the Lady Griz shot better than 50 percent for the second straight game.

“We came back from break and had some good practices,” said assistant coach Shannon Schweyen, who assumed postgame duties for under-the-weather head coach Robin Selvig. “The girls were excited to get conference started off right. It was a really good team effort by everybody.”

Valley

Kayleigh Valley. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com

Behind eight early points from Valley, Montana built a 10-point first-quarter lead, but Northern Arizona hung around and used an 11-2 run late in the second quarter to pull within one, 29-28.

A jumper by Haley Vining, a free throw by Valley and a runner by Sierra Anderson at quarter’s end gave the Lady Griz a 34-28 halftime lead.

The Lumberjacks stayed within reach despite 12 first-half turnovers and just eight minutes from Alyssa Rader, NAU’s leading scorer and rebounder, who had two points and three boards at the break.

A basket by Rader early in the third quarter pulled Northern Arizona within three, 36-33. But from there it was all Lady Griz.

Feller and Valley each had 12 points in the third quarter and scored all but one of Montana’s points in the period as the Lady Griz outscored the Lumberjacks 25-14 to carry a 59-42 lead into the fourth.

The outcome was never in doubt in the final quarter.

“I thought we came out in the second half and played with a lot more defensive intensity,” said Schweyen, whose team limited Rader to eight points and seven rebounds while forcing her into eight turnovers before she fouled out in just 21 minutes.

Feller, who scored 66 points in two games to earn MVP honors at the Lady Griz Classic, and Valley, who reached 29 points for the third time this season, nearly combined to outscore Northern Arizona.

Both shot better than 50 percent — Feller finished 11 for 17, Valley was 10 for 18 — and they helped Montana reach 80 points for the third straight game and the sixth time this season.

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McCalle Feller. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.

The Lady Griz, who have shot 51.3 percent their last three games, had 20 assists on their 31 baskets.

McCalle and Kayleigh were scoring machines today. We’ve weathered some bad shooting nights this season, but it sure makes it a lot easier when those guys are shooting like that,” said Schweyen.

“And we executed pretty well on offense. The other ladies made some nice reads and found the right people.”

Anderson handed out a season-high seven assists in just 17 minutes off the bench, and Vining had five, while adding four points, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Alycia Sims finished with five points, a game-high eight rebounds and two blocks.

“I thought Alycia had a great game,” Schweyen said. “She didn’t have a lot of buckets, but she had a great game defensively, boarding and being active. She did a lot of really nice things.”

Northern Arizona finished 7 for 15 from the arc — Rene Coggins hit all five of her 3-pointers to finish with 19 points — but the Lumberjacks turned it over 20 times and shot 38.2 percent overall.

Montana will host Southern Utah (3-9, 0-1 BSC) Saturday at 2 p.m. The Thunderbirds lost 86-59 at Montana State Thursday afternoon.

In other league games Thursday, Idaho routed North Dakota in Moscow 92-65, and Eastern Washington held off Northern Colorado in Cheney 59-55.

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