Dajavu All Over Again – NOT!

By BILL SCHWANKE

The Montana Lady Griz must have felt like they had been there before.

That’s because Saturday afternoon, just like Thursday night at Portland State, they fell behind 9-0 at the beginning of the game, roared back to take a halftime lead, controlled much of the second half, and had a possibility to let it slip away like they did at PSU.

But this time it didn’t slip away as Montana held off Eastern Washington 66-60 in Cheney.

And guess what? The Lady Griz shot the ball better from the floor, even though their percentage slid a bit in the second half. It’s amazing what putting the ball in the basket can do for you.

The Lady Griz also did a better job of covering Eastern’s outside shooters than they did a week earlier in Missoula and wound up outshooting the Eagles 41 to 32 percent, basically a turnaround from a week ago. Another key was free throw shooting where the Lady Griz were 17 of 22 compared to 14 of 22 for the home team.

A second-half surge and a 22-11 edge on the offensive glass gave Eastern the overall edge on the boards, 40-34. Turnovers were a virtual dead heat.

It sure doesn’t hurt to have Katie Baker, Jordan Sullivan, Lexie Nelson and Alexandra Hurley coming off the bench. The four outscored EWU’s reserves 40-7.

Baker, playing just 21 minutes, had 18 points and 7 rebounds while Sullivan, in 19 minutes, rang up 12 points and four boards.

Nelson played another excellent ball game, turning it over just once in 34 minutes.

With Northern Colorado’s loss at Idaho State and Portland State’s two-point win over visiting Montana State the Vikings, with a strong surge at the end of the regular season, will host the Big Sky Conference tournament starting Thursday night in Portland.

The Lady Griz will take on Idaho State, which spoiled the party for Northern Colorado Saturday, in one semifinal with Eastern Washington tangling with Montana State in the other. First-round byes go to Portland State and Northern Colorado.

What a match-up it will be when the Lady Griz face ISU on a neutral court. They’ve had a couple of battles royal so far this year with Montana winning by 7 in Missoula and 3 in Pocatello.

A win would likely pit the Lady Griz against Portland State in the semifinals, and Montana has plenty of motivation for revenge if that happens.

The close loss at Portland State Thursday night should show the Lady Griz they can stay with the Vikings. But first things first: they need to take care of Idaho State first.

Once again you have to admire how far the Lady Griz came after a pretty mediocre start. Young players like Nelson, Sullivan and the now-injured-and-out Torry Hill have gained confidence and senior Jessa Loman Linford – called on when Baker went out with appendicitis – has answered the bell as well.

Defense will be the key again, and the Lady Griz know how to play it. They just have to execute at both ends of the court at the same time and, who knows? They could be dancing.

ON THE SIDE: Griz nation is mourning the loss of Lindie Vanek, wife of former Grizzly basketball player Steve Vanek, who played for Montana in the 1980s. Lindie was just 44 when she died unexpectedly on Feb. 28 at their home in Minnesota, adding more heartache to a family which already had lost two children. Steve and kids, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

And congratulations to Brian Qvale, Will Cherry and Derek Selvig from the men’s team. Qvale and Cherry were named to the Big Sky Conference all-league first team – Qvale a unanimous choice and also defensive player of the year – and Selvig honorable mention. Well deserved for all three!

I’d love to hear your comments on what I’m talking about or answer any questions you might have. So have at it. I’m way beyond having my feelings hurt. And thanks for reading me. Back to Griz and Lady Griz Hoops blog home page.

Click here to see Griz and Lady Griz Hoopsarchive.

**************

“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.