Final Home Games of the Season for Lady Griz


The Montana women’s basketball team will play its final home games of the season this week when it hosts Idaho State and Weber State at Dahlberg Arena. The Lady Griz will face the Bengals on Thursday at 7 p.m. and the Wildcats on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Coverage: Thursday’s game will air locally on KMPT 930 AM, Saturday’s on KGVO 101.5 FM/1290 AM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater. Live stats and links to online video coverage through Eversport can be found at

Special events: The Red Wave will be performing at halftime of Thursday’s game. Saturday will be Senior Day for Hannah Doran, Haley Vining and McCalle Feller. Arrive early for a special video feature prepared by the senior class that will be shown prior to the announcement of the starting lineups.

Upcoming: Montana will wrap up the regular season next week on the road, playing at North Dakota on Wednesday and Northern Colorado on Friday. The Lady Griz will return to Missoula just long enough to do some laundry, then fly to Reno for the Big Sky tournament on Sunday, March 6.


Photo courtesy of UM Sports Information.

Where they stand: Montana (16-9, 9-5 BSC), which is on a league-high five-game winning streak, is currently tied for fifth with North Dakota in the Big Sky standings. Both teams trail fourth-place Weber State (18-7, 10-4 BSC) by a game. Idaho State (13-12, 6-8 BSC) is tied for eighth with Northern Colorado.

What’s at stake: All three teams will be playing in Reno, but when they start playing and how many games they’ll need to win to claim the Big Sky tournament championship is up in the air. At least for Montana and Weber State.

Idaho State will be playing an opening-round game on Monday, March 7. If the season ended today, No. 9 Idaho State would play No. 8 Northern Colorado, a team it lost to twice this season by a total of three points. It would be the tournament’s very first game, starting at noon.

With the top three teams in the league standings — Montana State, Idaho and Eastern Washington — in good position, the fourth team to get a bye to the quarterfinal round, which means no games until Wednesday, March 9, is going to come down to Weber State, Montana and North Dakota.

The Wildcats, who host Idaho and Eastern Washington next week, have a one-game lead on Montana but close the regular season with a hellacious stretch of games, made even more challenging by the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Regina Okoye (knee), who is doubtful to play this week.

Should it come down to Montana and North Dakota, the Fighting Hawks have the advantage of their 61-59 win in Missoula, but the Lady Griz could neutralize that by winning next week in Grand Forks. UND plays at Portland State and Sacramento State this week before hosting the Montana schools next week.

Trending (Montana): Up. Montana built its winning streak to four games by beating Portland State, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, the bottom three teams in the league standings, then earned its Up trend with win No. 5, a 70-66 home-court victory over Montana State last Saturday afternoon.

Trending (Idaho State): Holding steady. The Bengals have won three of four, but those wins came against PSU, NAU and SUU. Sandwiched within those wins was an 83-62 loss at Sacramento State. ISU needs a prove-it win, like Thursday at Montana, to earn the coveted Up designation.

Trending (Weber State): Holding steady but showing signs of leaking water. But that would be the case for any team that loses its top scorer and rebounder, like the Wildcats did in late January. A favorable schedule has helped mask Okoye’s absence. Now the real two-week test arrives.

How they got here (Montana): The preseason league favorite fell out of contention with a four-game losing streak in January, a skid that matched the longest for the program under 38th-year coach Robin Selvig. One of Montana’s losses (at Sacramento State) came in overtime, two came on game-winning baskets in the final second (North Dakota/at Eastern Washington), one came after giving up a nine-point, second-half lead (at Montana State). Only the team’s 78-61 loss at Idaho was a thumping.

How they got here (Idaho State): The Bengals were ranked No. 3 in the pre-league power poll of late December, so why is ISU now looking at a No. 9 seed in the tournament? A slow start to its conference season (45 points per game while starting 0-3) combined with some tough losses that could have had Idaho State playing for a bye had the results been different. Eight of the Bengals’ first 10 Big Sky games were decided by four points or fewer. ISU dropped five of them.

How they got here (Weber State): She won’t win Big Sky Coach of the Year — the engraver is practicing his best Tricia Binford — but Bethann Ord, a testament to giving a coach time to remake a program, should at least get something. The Wildcats, with 18 wins, are two victories away from matching their win total the first four years under Ord, who had record through three years of 9-78. Picked 10th in the preseason coaches’ poll, WSU opened the season 6-1 and hasn’t looked back.

Montana Notes:

* McCalle Feller, after missing Montana’s games against Portland State, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona with an ankle injury, made her return Saturday against Montana State. With just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, she wasn’t her usual self, but she gave her team 37 minutes, which was critical in a game when the Lady Griz were whistled for 24 fouls, which matched a season high. Without her, one of Montana’s assistant coaches may have had to slip into uniform.

* Feller can now resume her assault on the UM record book. Her 935 career points have her 65 away from becoming the 33rd player in program history to reach 1,000. And her 61 3-pointers this year are 11 shy of matching Sonya Rogers’ single-season record of 72, which she set in 2007-08, the season she led the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage (.486).

* Did anyone benefit from Feller’s absence more than Hannah Doran? The senior made her first career starts in Feller’s place and played a major role in Montana’s road sweep of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, averaging 14.5 points on 44 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds. Feller bumped Doran from the starting lineup on Saturday, but Doran still finished with 11 points and five rebounds against the Bobcats. Of Doran’s eight career double-figure scoring games, three have come in the last three games.

* Is it possible for Kayleigh Valley to win Big Sky MVP honors? She is emerging as the best player in the league, but that designation doesn’t always lead to the MVP. In the history of the Big Sky, there hasn’t been an MVP from a team that has finished lower than tied for third, which means that coaches, correctly, have based individual value on a team’s finish. Look for the MVP to come down to either Jasmine Hommes of Montana State or Hayley Hodgins of Eastern Washington.

* At 20.9 points per game after Saturday’s 23-point outing, Valley, who became the 32nd player in program history to reach 1,000 career points in Montana’s win at Southern Utah, remains on pace to become just the third player in program history to average more than 20 points per game. … Valley’s 522 points this year are the eighth-best season total in program history, with the guarantee of five more games. Only two players — Shannon Cate, with 668 in 1990-91 and 609 in 1989-90, and Mandy Morales, with 612 in 2006-07 — have reached 600 points in a season, a total Valley should hit. … Valley’s 131 made free throws this season already rank third in single-season history behind Mandy Morales’s 179 in 2006-07 and Shannon Cate’s 135 in 1990-91.

* It’s been another successful home campaign this winter for Montana, which improved to 12-2 at Dahlberg Arena with Saturday’s win. The Lady Griz have won 10 or more games at home 35 of the last 37 years and are now 509-61 (.893) at their home facility under Robin Selvig. Note: Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski is the proud owner of one of those 61 wins. His team won 58-51 in Missoula in 2011-12, the season ISU went 14-2 in league and made the NCAA tournament.

* Historically Missoula has treated Idaho State and Weber State quite rudely. At least on the basketball floor. Montana is 38-2 at home against the Bengals, 36-4 against the Wildcats.

* The calendar changing to February may have been the best thing to happen to Montana this season. After limping out of January with a 3-5 record, the Lady Griz are 5-0 this month.

Things to know about Idaho State: Seton Sobolewski, the 2011-12 Big Sky Coach of the Year, is in year No. 8. He led the Bengals to the Big Sky tournament in each of his first seven seasons, a claim that will lose some of its cachet now that all 12 teams make the tournament (at least for the next three years). … ISU suffered a big blow before the season even started when Grace Kenyon, very good last year as a true freshman, suffered a season-ending knee injury. … Idaho State’s top three scorers are neck, neck and neck for the team’s scoring title. Senior guard Apiphany Woods, preseason All-Big Sky, has 318 points; senior forward Anna Policicchio has 315, and junior guard Brooke Blair, a transfer from Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College, has 313. … The Bengals are back to being the Bengals again, at least as they’ve been under Sobolewski. His teams finished in the top four in field goal percentage defense his first six years before falling off to 10th a year ago. This year Idaho State ranks third at a healthy 36.7 percent.

Things to know about Weber State: Lady Griz fans should prepare themselves now, because they won’t like the way the Wildcats harass Montana’s players on Saturday. Think: Sacramento State with more aggression. If the game is called loosely, Dahlberg Arena is bound to get heated. … WSU is forcing 21.6 turnovers per game, a total that ranks 10th in the nation, and eight times in league has forced 25 or more. … The difference between Sacramento State and Weber State is that the Wildcats don’t immediately turn around and shoot the ball. Despite all the turnovers, WSU is averaging just 67.6 points per game while allowing a Big Sky-low 60.0. … Junior guard Deeshyra Thomas has come to her team’s rescue with the loss of Okoye. Thomas is averaging 21.7 points per game in February on 51.7 percent shooting. … Three of the Wildcats’ last six games have gone to overtime. Weber State defeated Northern Colorado in three overtimes, lost to North Dakota in overtime and held off Northern Arizona on Saturday in overtime. … The Wildcats are 10-3 away from Ogden this season.

Lady Griz three-dot notes: All three teams playing at Dahlberg Arena this week are currently on winning streaks. Montana has won five straight, Weber State, which plays at Montana State Thursday night, three straight, Idaho State two straight. … Robin Selvig is 15-2 against Seton Sobolewski, 7-1 against Bethann Ord. … The Lady Griz, who had just 10 in Saturday’s win, rank 13th nationally in turnovers (12.6/g) and 20th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.22). … Montana has held the lead for at least 27 minutes in each of its last seven games. … Why Montana won Saturday over Montana State: In the first meeting, a 61-52 MSU win in Bozeman, the Lady Griz averaged an anemic 0.79 points per possession, by far their lowest in league play. On Saturday that rose to 0.97. Defensively Montana was solid in both games, giving up 0.89 at Bozeman and 0.91 on Saturday. … With Saturday’s 70-66 win, Montana improved to 11-1 this season when scoring 70 or more points. … Haley Vining went without an assist in Saturday’s win. It was the first time this season she went without. Though hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds left probably made it all better. … Vining ranks 18th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.37). … Alycia Sims recorded her fifth double-double of the season Saturday with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sims has grabbed 10 or more boards six of the last eight games and ranks second in the Big Sky, behind Portland State’s Cici West (10.2/g), at 9.2 per game. … Sims is shooting 57.8 percent the last five games. … Valley leads the Big Sky in scoring (20.9/g) largely because she ranks third in the league in shooting (.529) and free throw percentage (.829). … Montana is shooting 45.2 percent on its five-game winning streak. The Lady Griz shot 34.6 percent on their preceding four-game losing streak. … Montana held Montana State, one of the top 20 teams in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, to a 1-for-11 (.091) effort from the arc on Saturday. … Montana was outrebounded by 18 its last two games. Its six offensive rebounds Saturday were a season low. … The Lady Griz have had 41 more assists than turnovers on their five-game winning streak. … The 44 second-half points Montana gave up to Montana State on Saturday were the most for a half since Idaho put up 47 second-half points back on Jan. 21 and tied for the second most all season.

Thursday in the Big Sky: ISU at UM, WSU at MSU, UND at PSU, UNC at SAC

Thursday notes: Even the most rabid Montana fan should be cheering for Montana State on Thursday. It would put the Bobcats one step closer to the regular-season title, but it would hand a team ahead of the Lady Griz an important loss. Think big picture, people.

Saturday in the Big Sky: WSU at UM, UI at EWU, UNC at PSU, UND at SAC, NAU at SUU, ISU at MSU

Saturday notes: Someone is picking up a fourth league loss when Idaho visits Eastern Washington. Prediction: The Vandals, who have won seven of eight, with just an overtime loss at Northern Colorado from making it eight straight, pick up the road win to match the Eagles’ 74-66 win at Moscow back on Jan. 9. … North Dakota plays Sacramento State for the first time this season. A victory by the Hornets over the Fighting Hawks, who have won eight of nine, would be appreciated by Montana. … Northern Arizona (6) and Southern Utah (15) have combined to lose 21 straight games. Someone is leaving Centrum Arena with a smile. And both are playing in the Big Sky tournament. We’re all winners!