By JOEL CARLSON
Montana rallied from a 14-point, first-half deficit and built three fourth-quarter leads Saturday at Sacramento State, but the Lady Griz, beset all game by costly turnovers, could not complete the comeback.
The Hornets, who defeated Montana for the third straight time at The Nest, controlled overtime and won 83-75 to hand the Lady Griz their first Big Sky Conference loss and snap their five-game winning streak.
Kayleigh Valley had her second double-double in three games with 23 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, and Hannah Doran came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points, but Montana turned it over a season-high 25 times. Sacramento State converted those turnovers into 32 points.
“I’m proud of the battle,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “Had we played a little better at the start of the game, we wouldn’t have dug ourselves such a big hole.
“They are good at what they do. They get after you and cause some havoc. We needed to have 18 or 19 turnovers, not 25.”
The Hornets (5-9, 2-1 BSC) entered the game averaging nearly 88 points and were well on their way to reaching that in the early going. Sac State put Montana (10-5, 3-1 BSC) on its heels on both ends of the court and jumped out to a 28-17 lead after the first quarter.
“Defensively we were just bad, and we were turning it over,” said Selvig, whose team had eight turnovers in the opening 10 minutes. “We couldn’t stop them at all. They were running all over heck, pressing and getting to the hole and getting layups.”
The Sac State lead reached a game-high 14 points when Adella Randle-El turned over Sierra Anderson early in the second quarter for one of her team’s 19 steals and took it in herself to make it 34-20
Montana’s comeback — sparked by defense, held back by its consistent turnovers — was long and drawn out — the Lady Griz would not take their first lead until two minutes into the fourth quarter — but it got its start in the second.
Doran scored eight of her 18 points in the period, and Montana held the Hornets to just three field goals the last eight minutes of the half and went to the break trailing 42-33.
The Montana defense got even stingier in the third quarter, allowing just 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting. A pair of Valley free throws late in the period had the teams deadlocked at 53 entering the fourth quarter.
“It looked like we were going to get blown out, then we stopped them great,” said Selvig. “They score 28 in the first quarter, then 14 and 11 in the second and third quarters, and only 16 in the last period.
“We had them in the 60s at their place (through regulation). We need to be able to win when we do that.”
Montana took the lead three times in the fourth quarter, and each time Sacramento State, which hit 12 3-pointers, right at its season average of 11.8, used the deep ball to answer.
The Lady Griz held their largest lead of the game, 65-62, with four minutes remaining and had possession, but a turnover led to a 3-pointer that tied it.
Montana went the final four minutes of regulation without a field goal and needed a pair of big defensive stands in the last minute to send the game to overtime.
The Lady Griz forced a Hornet miss with just under 30 seconds left on the clock and the game tied 69-69, but Valley was tied up on the rebound. Possession arrow: Sacramento State. Challenged with doing it again, Montana forced a low-percentage runner just before the horn.
Valley, who would foul out later in overtime, put the Lady Griz up 72-71 early in the extra session. It would be the last lead of the game for Montana. A 3-pointer by Maranne Johnson started a 7-0 run that gave the Hornets a lead they would hold the rest of the way.
“We were really good the second half. We were just a basket short,” said Selvig. “It would have been a heck of a win. It came down to one possession, but we had too many costly turnovers.”
Alycia Sims had 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds, and McCalle Feller, who went 4 for 14 and without a made 3-pointer for the first time this season, added 10 as Selvig went just eight players deep to keep a smaller, quicker lineup on the floor to defend the Hornets.
Montana shot 44.1 percent, a nice percentage against most teams, but well under the 52.8 percent Sac State has been allowing.
The loss drops Montana (10-5, 3-1 BSC) into third place in the Big Sky standings, behind unbeaten Montana State (11-4, 4-0 BSC), which won 106-59 at Portland State Saturday, and Eastern Washington (9-6, 3-0 BSC), which won 74-66 at Idaho.
The Lady Griz will host Northern Colorado (7-7, 2-2 BSC) and North Dakota (5-10, 1-3 BSC) next week at Dahlberg Arena. The Bears won 65-63 at home over Weber State on Saturday on a buzzer-beater. The Fighting Hawks picked up their first league win with a 45-42 victory over Idaho State.