Sims Leads Montana Past Portland State

By JOEL CARLSON | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Playing without McCalle Feller and facing a team selling out to stop Kayleigh Valley, Montana needed somebody, anybody, to step forward Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula if the Lady Griz wanted to beat Portland State.

Alycia Sims answered the call with a career game. She hit 13 of her 17 shots, most of them midrange jumpers that were taken with a not-always-there confidence, and finished with a career-high 29 points and 15 rebounds as Montana pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 76-57 victory over the Vikings.

“Alycia is really good facing the basket, and she got a hot hand. You could see she wanted it. They were working hard to keep Kayleigh out of it, and that created some openings for Alycia. She took advantage of it and really hurt them,” said coach Robin Selvig.

“And she did her usual good job defensively and was her normal force on the boards. It was a pretty nice night’s work.”

Robin Selvig

Robin Selvig. Photo by ©William Munoz.

Knowing nobody outside of Feller and Valley averages even eight points per game, Portland State crafted its game plan toward taking away the latter, knowing a rolled ankle in Thursday night’s 90-83 win over Sacramento State had already taken out the former.

The plan put the Vikings (3-18, 1-9 BSC) right where they wanted to be. Because Montana’s perimeter players struggled to score early on, the Lady Griz led just 34-32 at the half, and the teams were tied at 50 through three quarters.

Those struggles against a team allowing an NCAA-worst 90 points per game shined an even brighter light on the absence of Feller, who was on crutches Saturday. Few players in the league will make a team pay more for sending her defender to help than Feller.

Picture12“They were taking Kayleigh away, so at some point you’ve got to make those shots to make people pay,” said Selvig. “They doubled and even tripled her some.

“We were getting good shots because that’s what they were giving us. We just weren’t making any of them.” Until the fourth quarter.

Montana, which was shooting 36.7 percent through three quarters, went 10 for 17 in the final period, with Haley Vining and Hannah Doran, who made her first career start in place of Feller, going 3 for 4 from 3-point range.

Finally the Lady Griz found some breathing room that hadn’t been there the first 30 minutes.

“The game becomes simpler and it changes everything around when you hit the shots you’re given,” said Selvig. “If we were a little more consistent doing that, you wouldn’t see kids hanging on Kayleigh.”

The game was close early on because of Montana’s ineffectiveness from the perimeter and because Portland State posted its flag just below the basket. If it wasn’t Kian McNair driving hard, it was Cici West muscling her way to the rim.

Sims

Alycia Sims. Photo by ©William Munoz.

The pair had 26 first-half points, and 11 of PSU’s 12 first-half baskets came in the paint.

“They didn’t hit a perimeter shot to start with. It was all put your head down and drive, and get to the foul line. They threw in some tough ones,” Selvig said.

Montana twice built six-point leads in the third quarter, but Ashley Torres scored six unanswered points in the final minute to send the teams into the fourth quarter tied.

Vining’s first three of the fourth quarter gave Montana the lead for good. Her next three made it 62-55, and Doran’s triple made it 68-57. And that was enough. Montana held Portland State scoreless the final six minutes of the game and to 3-for-18 shooting for the quarter.

The Lady Griz (13-9, 6-5 BSC) outscored the Vikings 26-7 over the final 10 minutes.

“The last quarter we took charge. We were turning the ball out of the double-downs and making shots, and that will take the wind out of your sails. They go from being in range to being down 13 or 14 in a hurry,” said Selvig.

Vining scored all 12 of her points in the second half, all on 3-pointers, and she had six assists with one turnover, giving her 15 assists and three turnovers on Montana’s home sweep that began with Thursday’s win over Sacramento State.

Valley missed 10 shots against PSU’s collapsing defense but still finished with 18 points. She was 6 for 6 from the line and added nine rebounds and a career-high four assists. Doran had eight points and eight rebounds, Mekayla Isaak six rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks.

McNair had 22 points for Portland State, West added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Montana will play at Southern Utah (2-19, 0-11 BSC) on Thursday and at Northern Arizona (6-16, 2-9 BSC) next Saturday. The Thunderbirds, ahead 43-41 through three quarters, lost 64-53 at Eastern Washington on Saturday. The Lumberjacks lost 76-59 at Idaho.

In other league games, Montana State stayed tied atop the Big Sky Conference with Eastern Washington with a 116-99 win over Sacramento State in Bozeman, Northern Colorado won 61-59 at Idaho State, and North Dakota won 85-78 in overtime at Weber State.

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