A Huge Week for Griz Hoops – Part I

By BILL SCHWANKE

The week was huge in terms of wins and progress for both University of Montana basketball programs. Let’s take it a game at a time in the order they were played.

LADY GRIZ 75, UTAH VALLEY 53

The Lady Griz really took advantage of their size in a game between two young squads Tuesday night.

UM had a decided 46-20 advantage in points in the paint led by Katie Baker with 12 and Sara Ena with 11 along with Jessa Loman Linford and Jordan Sullivan adding six apiece off the bench.

Playing against a team that came into the annual Holiday Classic with just one win and left the same way puts this lopsided win into some perspective. The Wolverines also lost Wednesday to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a team that came to Missoula winless.

It’s a little early to tell if Robin Selvig’s decision to play sophomore Kenzie DeBoer at the point is on point, given the level of competition.

Montana’s defense was stellar, forcing 27 turnovers and amassing 17 steals.

Once again UM started slowly, missing lots of shots early resulting in a 6-6 tie five minutes in. But the Lady Griz finally found their range, cruised to a 35-22 halftime lead, and wound up shooting 48 percent on the night, far above their season average.

It was interesting, though, that the smaller Wolverines outrebounded Montana 42-37, and the Lady Griz still missed way too many layups.

A SIDE NOTE: What a pleasure it was to hear the national anthem sung by someone not trying to butcher it. I would love to see that happen all of the time instead of making the anthem singing sound like an American Idol competition.

GRIZ 83, NORTHERN ARIZONA 80

The most incredible thing about this highly entertaining game Wednesday was the attendance.

Despite the 1 p.m. weekday start Wednesday and the horrible weather outside 4,061 hardy souls were on hand for the Big Sky Conference opener between teams expected to contend for the league title.

The Grizzlies were down early as NAU – in particular guard Cameron Jones – came out on fire. Jones scored 11 of NAU’s first 13 points as the Griz struggled to keep up.

One of the most boneheaded plays I’ve ever seen happened early in this one. NAU veteran center Shane Johannsen, called for going over the back of UM center Brian Qvale, followed that by shoving Qvale, picking up a technical foul and his second personal to boot.

Johannsen spent a major portion of the first half and the game on the bench in foul trouble, logging a total of 10 minutes.

Qvale didn’t fare much better, picking up his second foul shortly thereafter and going to the sidelines. Qvale wound up playing just 14 minutes but still had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

Fortunately Derek Selvig filled in admirably, playing 39 minutes and racking up 16 points and 6 rebounds.

After the shaky start the Griz, fueled largely by Selvig, made a run to lead 35-32 at the break.

Qvale made his presence known again to start the second half scoring eight quick points, four on dunks.

The Grizzlies bolted to a 16-point lead with about 5 1/2 minutes to go, but spotty free throw shooting and a gutty push by the veteran Lumberjacks made it exciting at the end.

Poor free throw shooting is nothing new for Montana. It played a role when the Griz lost by four at San Francisco and made less than half of their charity tosses.

Even though UM shot them better than that against NAU, misses at crucial times when the Jacks made their bid to steal the game.

Montana had its best scoring balance of the year. Will Cherry was Will Cherry with 21 of his 27 points in the second half and some clutch free throws along with 6 assists and 4 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.

Also in double figures were Kareem Jamar and Art Steward with 11 each.

The Griz won despite NAU hitting 56 percent from the floor and 67 percent from behind the arc because the Griz also shot well at 51 percent overall and 54 percent on 3-pointers.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Looking like he was going to dive for a loose ball late in the first half Cherry instead somehow scooped it up, drove to the hoop, laid it in, was fouled, and made the free throw. Nothing he does will ever surprise me! 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.