By JOEL CARLSON
It was a tale of two halves for Montana Thursday night at Idaho. In the first half the Lady Griz struggled to score. In the second half they couldn’t slow down the Vandals. In the end the two halves added up to a 78-61 loss.
The Lady Griz (11-7, 4-3 BSC), who lost to the Vandals (13-5, 5-1 BSC) for the first time since 2010, trailed 31-22 at the half, then gave up 47 second-half points to drop to sixth place in the Big Sky Conference standings with a game at first-place Eastern Washington (12-6, 6-0 BSC) coming up Saturday afternoon.
Kayleigh Valley had 22 points and 11 rebounds, her third career double-double, and it was Valley’s play in the first half that allowed cold-shooting Montana to be within even nine at the half. She made all six of her first-half shots while the rest of the team was going 4 for 26.
Idaho, at 32.4 percent for the half, wasn’t much better, but the Vandals, who took 15 first-half 3-pointers, chased down 11 offensive rebounds and turned those extra touches into 11 second-chance points. That hustle created the halftime lead.
“If you’re going to beat a good team at their place, you need to make shots, and you need to do the little things, and we didn’t,” said coach Robin Selvig.
“I swear it would have been about 12-12 at the half, but they had 11 offensive rebounds. They shot terribly like we did, but they tracked down all those long rebounds or they wouldn’t have had any points either.”
Montana shot 31.3 percent in the first half and trailed 31-22 at the break. The Lady Griz had just 19 first-half points in their last game, a 61-59 home loss to North Dakota.
“We did what we’ve done too many times this season. We started out not being able to make a shot. We were working hard, but nobody’s making anything,” said Selvig.
Idaho is the third most prolific 3-point shooting team in the nation, averaging more than 10 makes per game. The Vandals used the deep ball to maintain and then extend their advantage in the second half, going 8 for 15 from the arc to finish 13 for 30 for the game.
And yet Montana was within reach for most of the third quarter, until a seven-point swing in the period’s final 30 seconds changed everything.
A pair of free throws by Rachel Staudacher pulled Montana within 10, 51-41, with 41 seconds left.
Just nine seconds later Karlee Wilson scored to make it 53-41. Wilson then stripped McCalle Feller at the other end, and out of frustration and to prevent a breakaway layup, Feller reached out and grabbed Wilson.
Video review confirmed the nature of the foul, and the officials gave Idaho two free throws, which Mikayla Ferenz converted, and possession. Christina Salvatore’s 3-pointer with three seconds left, one of her five triples for the game, made it 58-41 entering the fourth quarter.
Montana would use an 8-0 run early in the final quarter to cut its deficit to 61-51, but Idaho answered right back with seven straight points of its own, and that was the game.
The Lady Griz scored 39 second-half points but gave up 47.
“We finally start making shots the second half and put together some nice runs, but then we couldn’t stop them. They hit a lot of threes, and they hit big ones when we were making our runs,” said Selvig.
“Like the North Dakota game, when we finally got going we didn’t get any stops to go along with it.”
Salvatore finished with 15 points, all coming on 3-pointers, plus 10 rebounds and four assists. Geraldine McCorkell added 16 points, Renae Mokrzycki had 10 off the bench.
The Vandals shot 37.1 percent, a low percentage for 78 points, but they converted 12 Montana turnovers into 24 points, had 16 second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds. And they hit those 13 3-pointers, second only to Florida Atlantic’s 14 in triples allowed this season by the Lady Griz.
“They’re a pretty good team, and they played really well tonight,” said Selvig. “They have a lot of weapons, and that makes them hard to guard. When the threes are going in, that makes it even tougher.”
Valley was her usual efficient self, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Feller added 13 points, Alycia Sims finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. All nine of Sims’ points came in the second half.
All four home teams won Thursday night in the Big Sky. North Dakota defeated Northern Arizona 63-56, Northern Colorado beat Southern Utah 64-44, and Eastern Washington led nearly the entire way to knock Montana State from atop the league standings, 81-69.
Montana Sports Information