Same Start, Different Finish

By BILL SCHWANKE

It looked like the Lady Griz and Griz were headed for the same destination at the beginning of their games against Wyoming and Cal State-Fullerton last week. But fortunately only one team made it there.

Lady Griz

Wyoming drubs Lady Griz 73-51

Poor shooting has been a season-long nemesis for the Lady Griz, and nothing changed last Tuesday night against Wyoming. The signs of trouble came early as Montana missed five shots underneath the basket on its first possession and before you could say three-straight-home-losses-for-the-first-time-in-Robin-Selvig’s-career-at-UM the Lady Griz were behind 21-4 and the game was essentially over.

The Cowgirls, on the other hand, came out on fire and the fact that they didn’t get a single point all night from their bench didn’t matter. It was 37-17 at halftime and the Lady Griz never got close to a single-digit deficit.

Coach Selvig’s acknowledgment that it was an “old-fashioned butt-kicking” hardly did the game justice.

While the Cowboys wound up with three players scoring 15 points or more the Lady Griz had only Sarah Ena in double figures. Ena is the only Lady Griz player who has shot consistently well over the recent stretch of games.

If there was another bright light in the game for Montana it was that, after missing nearly everything early on, the Lady Griz actually improved their shooting as the game went on, not an easy task against a team as defense minded as Wyoming.

But that improved shooting still left Montana at 31.7 percent for the game, a paltry figure up against Wyoming’s 53.8 percent.

The Lady Griz hung pretty well on the boards, trailing 36-31 at game’s end, and only turned the ball over seven times. Jessa Loman Linford at 3 for 5 from the field and true freshman Jordan Sullivan at 3 for 4 provided some spark, but it was little consolation that the bench players for UM scored nearly as many points as the starters.

Selvig opted for sophomore utility player Kenzie DeBoer as his point guard starter Tuesday night, but it was hard to tell the impact when Wyoming basically had the game well in hand with just eight minutes gone.

Now 3-8 and losers of four in a row the Lady Griz are hoping that playing Utah Valley Tuesday night and North Dakota Wednesday night in the Holiday Classic will provide much-needed relief.

But despite the fact that their two tourney opponents have just two wins between them – and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has none in 10 tries – you still have to put the ball in the basket consistently to win games, and the Lady Griz haven’t shown the ability to do that for quite awhile.

The Grizzlies

Griz rally to beat Cal State-Fullerton on road

The Montana men looked like they had taken shooting lessons from their Lady Griz counterparts at the start of Wednesday night’s rematch at Cal State-Fullerton in soggy California.

Playing the second straight opponent they had beaten earlier this season in Missoula the Griz seemed to come out a bit flat and trailed 16-4 with 13:59 to go in the first half.

Riding a fire lit by Art Steward off the bench the Grizzlies put together a 31-8 run from then on and led 35-24 at halftime.

It was a remarkable surge against a program that had won 13 nonconference home games in a row and 32 of its last 33.

By the time the game was over Montana had a 71-57 win, an 8-4 record, and 8 wins in its last 10 outings.

Steward, doing much of his damage from close range and at the free throw line, wound up with a career high 24 points, bettering his previous career mark of 11 that ironically came against the same team 22 nights earlier.

Steward hit 8 of 10 field goal tries and 8 of 11 at the line, where the Griz as a team were an uncharacteristic but welcome 24 of 29. That included a sparkling 10 of 10 at the stripe for sophomore guard Will Cherry who joined Steward in double figures with 18.

For the second straight game the opposing defense stifled center Brian Qvale who managed just three points and took only three shots. But Qvale did his damage elsewhere with 10 rebounds and three more blocked shots.

Derek Selvig and Kareem Jamar approached double figures with nine points apiece, and the Grizzlies wasted the Titans on the boards, 40-30.

Despite the slow start the Griz hit nearly 46 percent from the floor while holding CSF to just 33 percent.

The Griz face a pair of oddities this coming week.

First, because of the Big Sky Conference’s unexplainable love for the Bracket Buster event, Montana will open conference play at home in December. And second, because of scheduling conflicts, the Griz will play both weekday games at 1 in the afternoon.

The games are Wednesday against Northern Arizona and Friday against Weber State, the team Montana stunned with its Anthony Johnson-led rally in last year’s conference tournament title game in Ogden.

By the way, as I’ve heard others say these days, “who is Anthony Johnson?” Seems like the current edition of the Grizzlies is enough fun to watch that they’re making their own mark.

It’s almost criminal that the Grizzlies have to face two arch rivals in weekday games that have little chance of drawing the kinds of crowds these two opponents ordinarily would draw at night.

So come on, fans, take some more holiday time off and make it out to Dahlberg Arena for a bunch of basketball from Tuesday through Friday.

Hope you had the merriest of Christmases and that’s you’ll have a happy New Year as well. We’ll have more for you in 2011!  Back to UM Hoops home page.

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“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 42years.