Griz and Lady Griz Tough on Bears

By BILL SCHWANKE

If you’re into atmosphere – almost a tournament atmosphere – Dahlberg Arena was the place to be Saturday night as the Montana Grizzlies took on the Northern Colorado Bears for a share of first place in the Big Sky Conference.

And the Lady Griz put themselves even deeper in the hunt on the women’s side by holding off a late UNC surge for a 53-51 win in Greeley.

LADY GRIZ 53, NORTHERN COLORADO 51

When the Montana Lady Griz had a 45-30 lead at Northern Colorado with about 15 minutes to go Saturday afternoon you knew two things: one, the game was a long way from over, and two, Northern Colorado would probably make some kind of a run.

You were right on both counts.

The Bears did put on a run – a great run of 19-2 – as the Lady Griz went scoreless for about 8 1/2 minutes, and the whole lead was washed out. But the Lady Griz, despite missing a couple of bunnies inside and drawing the collar too often at the free throw line, hung in there and hung in there and finally, keyed by a gutsy taking of a charge by Katie Baker, held on to win over the Big Sky league leaders.

After falling behind 49-47 with 3:05 left Sarah Ena went two for four at the line to tie it at 49-49. Ena then blocked a shot and scored on a jumper but missed the ensuing free throw for a 51-49 UM lead. The Bears tied it at 51 but couldn’t score again in the final 1:18.

Jessa Loman Linford and Baker each made one of two charity tosses in the final 26 seconds and that was ball game.

It was a physical battle throughout. A technical foul call against Jaime White really seemed to light a fire under her UNC team. Their intensity increased and the Lady Griz turned it over numerous times over the next few minutes to give the Bears a chance.

Remember, this Bears team had just handed Montana State its lunch 64-46 two nights earlier. They are the real deal. Montana established itself early on as the aggressor on offense, running plays to perfection and hitting 50 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes for a 36-26 lead.

The Lady Griz continued their solid shooting until the pressure was amped up by Northern Colorado. Neither team shot over 40 percent for the afternoon, with UM ending up at 39 percent and UNC at 36.

The Bears outrebounded Montana by two and also had two more assists, but the Lady Griz had three fewer turnovers despite the inability to handle pressure in the middle stages of the second half.

Ena topped Montana with 15 points and six rebounds, sharing scoring honors with Kenzie DeBoer. Baker tossed in 11 points to go with her four rebounds.

Freshman guard Torrey Hill finished off a road trip she’ll want to forget with a 0-for-6 showing from the floor and four turnovers. However she also had four assists.

The challenges are still ahead for Montana, with three of its final five regular-season games on the road. Next up, Idaho State in Pocatello next Saturday night.

As coach Robin Selvig said on the post-game radio show Saturday, it wasn’t pretty, but you could tell by the tone in his voice how proud he was of his team for finding a way to win in a tough, tough situation in Greeley.

Good job, Lady Griz. It’s just another example of how far you’ve come since the early going of the conference season.

GRIZ 55, BEARS 42

The Griz got the game they needed from their two big guys Saturday night as more than 6,500 looked on at Dahlberg Arena.

Derek Selvig got it going early and Brian Qvale nearly had a double-double in the first half as the Grizzlies ran out to a 19-4 lead and never let the Bears get close from then on.

Qvale, with 22, and Selvig, with 18, had 40 of Montana’s points in a victory over a Bears team that could manage just 23 percent from the floor but did outrebound the home squad by four. Included were 19 offensive rebounds, but when you shoot 23 percent you’ll have a lot of chances for those.

The Bears simply had no answer for Montana’s defense. Various Montana players took turns shadowing league-leading scorer Devon Beitzel who still tallied 22 points. I hope the kid plays soccer in the off season so he can get some rest. I swear he must run and shoot in his sleep.

The Griz got somewhat stagnant after UNC went to a zone in the second half and proceeded to float the ball around for the taking. Montana had 10 of its 14 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

Northern Colorado never quit fighting, but this night belonged to Montana. Both are still in the hunt to host the conference tournament.

Weber State appeared to have a road win sewed up at Eastern Washington while Northern Arizona, throttled by the Wildcats Thursday night, dropped an overtime game at lowly Idaho State to drop further off the pace of the three front runners.

The Griz and the home crowd got a big psychological boost when Will Cherry, who missed most of the last three games with an ankle injury, came off the bench about midway through the first half. Cherry played a lot more minutes that I would have thought and obviously wasn’t his whole self although he had a nifty stop-and-go move to the basket in the first half that had everyone, including the Northern Colorado players and coaches, wondering if he had really ever been injured.

Senior Night is next as the Griz play their final regular-season home game Wednesday night against Idaho State. They have only one senior, but he’s a big one – Brian Qvale. It’s a shame Senior Night is on a weeknight. Hopefully Griz fans will turn out to honor this big old bear and the rest of his teammates for what has been a highly entertaining season so far.  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.