Make Mine a Double: Griz Women, Men Sweep Bobcats

By BILL SCHWANKE

A second doubleheader in a row featuring Montana and Montana State, this time in Bozeman. And what a sweet Saturday it was for the University of Montana, albeit perhaps an unexpected one.

LADY GRIZ 56, LADY CATS 55

Wow!

With Katie Baker on the shelf for up to three weeks and not much time to adjust to her loss, the Lady Griz found a way, rallying from an 18-point first half deficit to trail by five at halftime, then take the lead late in the game and hang on for one of the most unlikely wins in UM women’s basketball memory.

Again defense was a key for Montana even though the Lady Cats outshot the Lady Griz 41 to 39 percent from the floor. The Lady Griz got key stops in the second half and held their own on the boards even without Baker.

It was an interesting scenario down the stretch. Both Torrey Hill and Kenzie DeBoer missed front ends of one-and-one situations that could have made it a two-possession deficit for MSU. DeBoer had to wait for a ridiculously long time while officials tried to find someone smart enough in Brick Breeden Field House to reset the game clock at 5.1 seconds. I think it took 5.1 minutes for them to find that person.

As my son suggested, that must be why they put the Brick in Brick Breeden.

When the Lady Cats rebounded DeBoer’s miss MSU’s Ausha Cole raced down the floor pretty much unmolested even though Montana had two fouls to give. Obviously you have to avoid the intentional foul call in that situation, but a simple reach in would have slowed Cole’s progress enough to force the Cats to inbound the ball again.

But it all worked out for Montana as the Lady Griz snapped a 10-game winning streak by their arch rival.

Sarah Ena and DeBoer led Montana in scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively, and the Lady Griz had five players with at least five rebounds.

Montana also had fewer turnovers, forcing 18 by MSU while only having 13 on the afternoon.

Another huge key was bench scoring, where Montana enjoyed a 20-9 advantage led by freshman Torrey Hill’s nine. Hill continues to have some problems with turnovers but her play is immensely better than it was earlier in the year.

All in all a very satisfying afternoon for the Lady Griz, who bucked a lot of long odds to win this one. Now it’s back home for league games against Weber State Thursday night and Northern Arizona Saturday night.

ON THE SIDE: Please, radio and television commentators, let’s quit this nonsensical comment, “They’re letting them play,” and change it to what it really is – “They’re letting them foul.” That’s what it really boils down to.

GRIZ 79, CATS 58

The Grizzlies earned a sweep over their arch rival with a huge second half, especially from their huge players, Brian Qvale and Derek Selvig.

And the Grizzlies also found themselves in first place in the Big Sky Conference by one-half game after Northern Colorado, unbeaten in league play until Saturday night, lost by one at Weber State on a half-court shot at the buzzer in Ogden, Utah.

Qvale and Selvig combined for 47 points and 21 rebounds as the Griz dominated the second half after the Cats rallied for a 33-33 halftime tie. If Selvig wasn’t scoring, he was assisting Qvale for baskets.

If you don’t think size matters, ask the Cats. They had no answer for Montana’s inside game.

After a sloppy first half that saw the Grizzlies turning the ball over uncharacteristically Montana smoothed out its play in the final 20 minutes.

The size factor also showed up on the boards where the Griz had an impressive 40-21 bulge. And oh, by the way, Montana also shot a cool 67 percent from the field including 58 percent from beyond the arc.

Will Cherry failed to reach double figures, being content to distribute the ball to his teammates. He wound up with seven assists. Art Steward had 10 points and, like Shawn Stockton, was two for two from three-point land.

The Cats hit just 40 percent from the field and were a miserable 3 for 11 from the charity stripe.

If there’s one word that really describes this year’s Griz basketball team, it’s efficiency. For back-up, I’d go with poise. Even when the Cats made a run and took a brief lead in the first half, there was no sign in the body language of the Montana players that they were concerned. They just came out in the second half, took control, and went about their business.

The Griz know they can win on the road, but probably their biggest two-game challenge away from home is coming up next weekend as they play at Weber State Thursday night and Northern Arizona Saturday night.

At least they go into the trip with a bit of a cushion between themselves and the next tier of Big Sky teams. The next teams behind Montana and Northern Colorado have four losses through the first half of the league schedule.

ON THE SIDE: To show how bad things were for Bobcat fans Saturday night, with their team trailing by 20 in the closing seconds the student section chanted “air ball” at Montana’s Kareem Jamar when he handled the ball. Jamar had aired a three-all much earlier in the game. Any port in a storm, I guess.

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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.