Grizzly Bill Schwanke’s Blog Tip-Off


Where to begin, when it comes to blogging about Griz and Lady Griz basketball.

Especially when you’re perceived by some to be an expert despite the fact that your more direct contact with Grizzly Athletics ended years ago.

It’s a nasty job, but someone’s got to do it. I must have the name Grizzly Bill for a reason, so here goes.

Being old school, it’s always ladies first for me.

The Lady Griz

The Lady Griz are going through some serious shooting woes this season, not a good thing when you’re playing the opponents they have on their schedule.

With a young team and fresh faces at point guard and pretty much everywhere else on the roster it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lady Griz are struggling for wins. But that whole inability to hit shots thing is a puzzler, especially when those fresh faces and remaining veterans came out of high school with pretty solid scoring credentials.

Even more puzzling is the inability of the team to hit even layups at times. It’s a little easier to understand struggling from beyond the arc, or having short jumpers lip in and out, but those layups – that’s tough to swallow.

Coach Robin Selvig must feel like screaming sometimes – like he used to much more often as a younger coach – but he’s learned over time that blowing off steam, especially at young players, isn’t as productive as it might have been 20 years ago.

Coaches are dealing with a different type of kid these days, players that need to be brought along through a strange combination of restrained brutality and ongoing coddling.

I’m glad I don’t have to do it.

Things got a bit better shooting-wise Sunday afternoon in a 62-55 loss to a talented Portland team. The Lady Griz had the lead much of the afternoon but couldn’t overcome 25 turnovers and the inability to generally handle pressure defense. Sarah Ena was a bright spot for the second straight game hitting 7 of 10 from the floor and tallying 18 points and 9 rebounds despite being limited to 25 minutes of playing time by foul trouble.

She just needs some help.

Fans have remained remarkably patient, and they’ve had to be patient because the shooting woes aren’t new this year. Neither is missing layups. It’s been going on to one degree or another for a number of seasons now, making it even more of a puzzler, at least for me.

I don’t lay awake nights thinking about it, but Selvig and his coaching staff might.

Anybody got the answer? I’d love to hear it. So would Robin.

The Grizzlies

As for the men Griz, it’s easy to find a place to start there, too.

It’s called Pauley Pavilion, where just a few days ago the Grizzlies not only knocked off UCLA, they did it in impressive fashion.

According to folks who were there,  the Grizzlies dominated the Bruins in every phase of the game.

You can say what you want: the Bruins came out flat after their narrow loss at Kansas, perhaps thinking the Griz would be a pushover; UCLA just isn’t as good as it used to be; or any other number of excuses you can come up with for them.

But the fact is, any team from any place in the country would welcome a road win at fabled Pauley, take it and run with it.

I think what pleased and impressed me nearly as much as the win at UCLA was the way the Griz came to play when UGF came to Missoula.

Beyond the fact that the uniform colors were the same as UCLA’s and their names started with the same letter, there were no other similarities between UCLA and the University of Great Falls.

Many expected at least a partial letdown from the Grizzlies. I know I did. And for just a couple of minutes at the start of the game at Dahlberg Arena it looked like it might happen.

But the Grizzlies more than took care of business against the outmanned Argonauts, who, to their credit, put up a fight. This time the Grizzlies dominated an opponent they should have dominated.

It didn’t seem to matter who Wayne Tinkle put on the floor. There was no noticeable drop-off. The Griz simply dominated. Everybody played hard at both ends of the floor.

The one thing hanging out there that continues to be a cause for concern is Montana’s inconsistency at the free throw line. Missing nine of 10 free throws late against Portland two nights before the UCLA win contributed to a 58-54 loss that shouldn’t have happened.

Late against UCLA some one-and-one front ends were clanked, but Montana’s lead was big enough to overcome even some bricks.

Unfortunately the free throw thing reared its head in Sunday’s overtime loss at the University of San Francisco. the Griz were 5 for 11 from the line and a paltry 5 for 25 from 3-point range. So almost half of Montana’s shots came from behind the arc. That’s okay if you’re hitting a good percentage of them. And 35 percent overall field goal shooting won’t cut it on the road.

It was one of those shoulda, coulda games that definitely got away.

Derek Selvig had one of his better outings with 18 points on 6 of 13 field goal shooting including 4 of 10 from beyond the arc. The Griz will have to shake this loss off with a road game at Cal State-Fullerton after a home game against Oregon State that will provide more trying times over the next few days.

The key is obvious: play tough and hard for 40 minutes at both ends of the floor and this Griz team has the talent – despite its youth – to play with lots of folks.

Regardless of outcomes, both UM basketball teams are fun to watch. Win or lose, the exuberance of youth is evident, and gives us all a boost.

We’ll see you at Dahlberg!


“Grizzly Bill” Schwanke is a UM journalism grad and Missoula native.  He spent 21 years doing play-by-play for Griz football and men’s basketball winning sportscaster of the year six times and working in Grizzly athletics for 15 years total. He’s enjoying retirement, especially the chance to spend time with his three grandsons. His wife Lynn and he have been married for 42 years.