Griz-Cat Weekend – A 50-50 Deal

By BILL SCHWANKE

LADY CATS 72, LADY GRIZ 69

When the Montana State women took a 39-26 lead at halftime I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the crowd of more than 4,000 at Dahlberg Arena Saturday afternoon that thought the odds were slim or none that the Montana Lady Griz could come back and make a game of it.

In fact I’ll best most Lady Griz fans came into the game thinking it could be one-sided to start with.

But credit goes to the Lady Griz who not only made a game of it, they tied it at 67-67 and had a couple of opportunities to take the lead, but couldn’t cash in. And then, with about 14 seconds to go and Montana State up by one after the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation, the MSU shooter missed the bonus.

The ensuing scramble resulted in a jump ball, but the possession arrow favored the visitors. Two quick fouls put Ausha Cole at the line. After she made both ends of the one-and-one UM still had about 11 seconds to get off a shot, but turned it over at the Lady Griz end as the clock ran out.

Montana State maintained its lead in the Big Sky Conference race, and the Lady Griz grew up some more. Thanks to some more “interesting” league scheduling the Lady Cats came in with a few days of rest while Montana had to scramble to win Thursday night over Idaho State.

Katie Baker started out hot for the Lady Griz, nailing her first few shots, but then started rushing them again to wind up at 6 for 21 on the way to 14 points. She again led Montana in rebounding with eight as the Lady Griz outrebounded MSU 37-35. Sarah Ena was the other Lady Griz in double figures with 12. Those two couldn’t offset the combined 43 points of Lyndi Seidensticker (22) and Rachel Semasnsky (21), but got help from six teammates who scored six or more points.

In fact Montana’s bench outscored MSU’s 28-3.

Some highlights for Montana were contributions made by bench players Jessa Loman Linford, Alexandra Hurley and Jordan Sullivan.

Linford hit a pair of key threes, something she’s not known for, after going out with what appeared to be a serious ankle sprain in the first half.

Hurley had some key hustle plays including a trey and a couple of put-backs in the second half, and Sullivan also scored twice from offensive rebounds while pulling down seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

Next up for the Lady Griz – home games Thursday against Weber State and Saturday against Northern Arizona.

GRIZ 75, CATS 61

It was an electric night. Daren Engellant was on hand before tip-off to hand over the game ball from Idaho State that Griz senior Brian Qvale swatted Thursday night to establish himself as UM and Big Sky Conference career shot blocking leader, taking over from Engellant.

More than 7,300 fans turned out – a record for the latest Dahlberg Arena configuration – and they got their money’s worth.

The Grizzlies, led by Will Cherry, jumped the Cats early, racing to a 20-6 lead. UM had its biggest first half margin with just under 10 minutes left, 27-10, before Qvale and Derek Selvig retired to the bench with two fouls, thanks in large part to an officiating crew that couldn’t see an over-the-back call if it landed on them, and in no small part to one particular official whom we shall simply call Mr. T.

And the T doesn’t stand for terrific.

Hulking Bobcat center Cody Anderson, the beneficiary of the lack of over the back calls, decided he could wander further from the basket on defense, which allowed the Grizzlies, primarily the duo of Shawn Stockton and Mathias Ward, to practice backdoor cuts. The Grizzlies led 40-29 at the half.

Qvale sparked an early second-half surge by the Griz that saw the home team move to a 20-point lead at 57-37. Montana opened the half with a special for Qvale, who took the ball to the hoop for the and-one against Anderson and made the free throw to boot.

Had fatigue brought on by the trip to Pocatello and a hard-fought win Thursday night not set in on the Grizzlies the margin of victory would have been much larger. At one stretch late in the second half Montana missed seven straight free throws and a few other open shots. You could tell by their look that the legs were gone.

But the hearts were not and even though the Cats got within 12 at the 2:36 mark the Griz made sure they got no closer.

Qvale had a monster night with 18 points and 17 boards. Art Steward led the Griz in scoring with 19. The two got help from Will Cherry with 16 and Derek Selvig with 12. Shawn Stockton once again had an outstanding floor game, and UM got good minutes off the bench from Ward and Jordan Wood.

One key stat: the Grizzlies had just seven turnovers on the night while the Cats had 12, also a good figure.

Due again to some creative scheduling the teams will play again next Saturday night in Bozeman. The Bobcats travel to Idaho State Monday night while the Griz have seven days off.

Montana has a shiny 15-5 overall record and a 7-1 league mark halfway through the conference schedule. Not too shabby. But the Griz have just three more home games. Be there or be square.

ON THE SIDE:  A sizeable number of folks gathered Sunday at the University Congregational Church to pay tribute to former Griz head basketball coach Ron Nord, who also served a stint as an assistant football coach at UM. Ron was a unique individual and a great friend to all who were blessed to know him. Ron, rest in peace.  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.