By JOEL CARLSON
Montana survived Thursday night — and that’s the right term, because no one really beats Sacramento State as much as they just hope to come out the other end with bodies intact and holding a W — and snapped a four-game losing streak in the process with a 90-83 win over the Hornets at Dahlberg Arena.
Kayleigh Valley had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Alycia Sims had 17 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, all career highs, and Haley Vining had a career-high nine assists and only two turnovers in the type of game that’s hard to avoid when Sacramento State comes calling.
The game had 156 shots, 62 of them from 3-point range, which led to 94 rebounds, many of them coming outside the paint, with the Hornets making hockey-style line changes every minute or less to keep their energy high. The high-possession style wears out players and coaches alike.
“That’s a typical game with them,” said a weary Robin Selvig after the game. “I feel like I just ran a marathon. I was trying to be calm, but there are just so many possessions and hacks and digs.”
The win put an end to Montana’s four-game losing streak, which matched the most ever under Selvig, who is in his 38th year. Two of those losses came in the final second. Another, on Saturday at Montana State, came after giving up a nine-point second-half lead.
“It’s just a good feeling to get back into the win column,” said Selvig. “The games we lost were good ones and ones we could have won, so there was no reason to be down and out about it. It just feels a lot better to get the W.”
Montana mostly played at Sacramento State’s preferred pace — organized, intense chaos might best describe it, with the goal of putting the other team under 94 feet of offensive and defensive pressure — in the first half and had a 46-42 halftime lead to show for it after shooting 51.4 percent.
The Lady Griz (12-9, 5-5 BSC) outscored the Hornets (7-13, 4-5 BSC) 25-15 in the third quarter, which would have put most teams away, but not Sacramento State, not when a team can put up 26 points in a quarter as easily as the Hornets can, and did in the fourth quarter to keep it close into the final minute.
But on this night, Montana made the key plays — Sierra Anderson’s and-one, anyone? Or Montana’s perfect fourth-quarter free throw shooting? — and its lead never got below seven.
“We played strong until the end tonight. We had a lead late in some of the games that we lost and weren’t able to close them out. We closed this one out,” said Selvig, whose team led for nearly 36 of the 40 minutes.
Not that it was ever easy, especially when McCalle Feller, who scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and is the type of athletic closer who can finish possessions against a gambling defense, was lost for the game, and perhaps longer, early in the fourth quarter.
Her loss created problems both short and long term. On Thursday, Montana had to hold off Sacramento State without its second leading scorer. How long Feller, who landed on the foot of a Hornet and rolled her ankle, will be out won’t be known until at least Friday.
“She’s someone who can go make plays in a game like this, which she was really doing the second half,” said Selvig. “Hopefully she can go Saturday, but we can’t take any chances. Sometimes they feel terrible and they aren’t that bad, and sometimes it takes a little time to get back healthy.”
Adella Randle-El had 30 points for Sacramento State, the most scored by an opponent on Montana this season, as the Hornets took 47 of their 81 shots from beyond the arc. They only made 13, with a 6-for-25 performance in the second half.
Montana had 21 turnovers, which looks like a high number, but it’s four fewer than Sacramento State creates in a typical game, and the Lady Griz forced 15 themselves, better than the 16-turnover difference between the teams in the Hornets’ 83-75 home-court overtime victory in January.
“Twenty-one turnovers seem like a lot, but it’s not that many against these guys,” said Selvig, whose team had a 57-37 rebounding advantage.
“Alycia was a stud on the boards and made free throws down the stretch, and Haley had a great game. Nine assists and two turnovers against that pressure? We’ll take that. Everybody did a good job.”
Montana will try to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since early January when the Lady Griz host Portland State (3-17, 1-8 BSC) Saturday at 2 p.m. The Vikings lost 74-64 at Montana State Thursday night, a game the Bobcats led by 20 entering the fourth quarter.
Montana State (16-5, 9-1 BSC) remains atop the Big Sky standings with Eastern Washington (15-7, 9-1 BSC), which won 72-65 at home Thursday night over Northern Arizona.
In other league games, Idaho, which trailed by one after the first quarter, blitzed Southern Utah 93-48. North Dakota won 60-57 at Idaho State, and Weber State, which had 14 points at the half, won in triple overtime at home over Northern Colorado 82-79.
Montana Sports Information