32nd Lady Griz Classic this week at Dahlberg Arena

By UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION

The Montana women’s basketball team will host the 32nd edition of the Lady Griz Classic sponsored by Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park this week when it welcomes Idaho and Tennessee State to Missoula. The three-team, three-day tournament will be played Thursday through Saturday, with one game each night.

Montana will host Idaho on Thursday, just 11 days after playing the Vandals in Moscow. Idaho will play Tennessee State on Friday, and the Lady Griz and Lady Tigers will wrap up the tournament Saturday.

All three games tip off at 7 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena.

Coverage: Both of Montana’s games will be aired on 101.5 FM and 1290 AM in the Missoula area, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the contests. Fans outside reception range can listen to the broadcast through the All-Access page at GoGriz.com.

All three games will be streamed free of charge through Big Sky TV, and all three games will have live stats. Links to all available services can be found on the women’s basketball schedule page at GoGriz.com.

Game Notes:  See the Lady Griz Rosters, Season game stats, andmore!

Senior guard Kenzie De Boer (r) shares ‘five’ with senior forward Katie Baker. Photo by AustinSmith.

At a glance: Montana enters the tournament with a record of 3-2. The Lady Griz extended their winning streak to three games with a 69-65 overtime victory over UNLV last Saturday at the Lady Rebel Round-Up in Las Vegas, then lost Sunday’s championship game to Villanova 74-49.

Idaho (1-4) played for the first time Tuesday since losing at home to Montana 71-50 back on Nov. 18. The Vandals hosted Eastern Washington and came up with their first win of the season Tuesday, 68-66.

With the game tied at 66 and the clock under 10 seconds, Idaho was on defense and had a foul to give, so the Vandals went aggressively after former Lady Griz Lexie Nelson, now EWU’s point guard. Nelson coughed it up without drawing a foul, and Idaho rushed up the court and won on Alyssa Charlston’s game-winner with 0.2 seconds remaining.

Tennessee State (2-3) won its opener at home over Cumberland, 52-49, then lost to South Alabama, Kansas State and Alabama-Birmingham, three teams who are currently a combined 16-2. Tennessee State won at Samford in its last game, 57-40, the same Samford team that beat Montana at DePaul’s tournament last season by 14.

“One of the teams in the tournament we just played, so we’re familiar with them, and the other we have no familiarity with, so it’s going to be interesting,” 35th-year coach Robin Selvig said.

“Idaho is a scary team. We’re not under any illusions that everything automatically goes the way it did the last time. We played really well there and shot the ball well, especially in the first half, and were able to get away from them.

“Just looking at Tennessee State’s scores tells you they’re impressive. They lost to three very good teams, and they beat Samford on the road, and we know that’s a very good program.”

Tournament history: Through the Lady Griz Classic’s first 31 editions, Montana has posted a record of 59-3 and enters this year’s tournament with 24 straight Classic wins. The Lady Griz defeated Southern Mississippi, 79-64, and North Dakota, 60-39, last December.

Montana’s three losses in the tournament have come against Washington, 64-59 in 1980-81, Drake, 71-65 in 1981-82, and Arkansas, 74-54 in 1998-99.

Lady Griz Head Coach Robin Selvig. Photo by AustinSmith.

Coach Robin Selvig, young whippersnapper: Larry Joe Inman may be in his first year coaching Tennessee State, but his coaching career began in 1970, the same year he graduated from Austin Peay and the same year Montana coach Robin Selvig, now in his 35th year coaching the Lady Griz, was a freshman on the Griz men’s basketball team.

Inman spent eight years at the prep level before taking the Middle Tennessee State job in 1978. He moved on to Eastern Kentucky in 1988 and won 319 games and led the Lady Colonels to two NCAA tournaments before retiring following 2007-08 season. The winningest women’s basketball coach in Ohio Valley Conference history was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame in 2009.

Inman was coaching at Lebanon (Tenn.) High the previous two seasons before Tennessee State lured him out of retirement.

“He is obviously an outstanding coach,” said Selvig, who has more Division I coaching experience than Inman, but not as many total years of coaching. “He’s got a team that won nine games last year playing well against a good schedule. What they’ve done early is pretty impressive.”

Worthwhile trip: Not only will Tennessee State get two games out of the Lady Griz Classic, the Lady Tigers will remain in the state and travel to Bozeman for a game against the Bobcats Monday night before returning to Nashville.

Home sweet home: When Montana returned home from Las Vegas on Monday, the Lady Griz arrived knowing they won’t be taking another trip until early January.

After the Classic, Montana will close out its nonconference schedule with home games against Wyoming on Thursday, Dec. 6, and Denver on Sunday, Dec. 16. The Lady Griz will open Big Sky Conference play at home against Northern Arizona and Sacramento State on Dec. 20 and 22.

The team will not play again until traveling to Eastern Washington and Portland State for games Jan. 3 and 5.

“It’s definitely a long stretch when we’re here, but we’ve basically been on the road since the season started, so we deserve it,” Selvig said. “We have finals during this stretch, so it’s nice for the players not to have a hectic schedule.”

Lady Rebel Round-Up, lessons learned (No. 1): Montana led UNLV by 10 with 4:04 to play in regulation last Saturday and by eight with two minutes to go. But the Lady Rebels rallied to send the game into overtime with a basket with 15 seconds to go.

The Lady Griz, who took the lead early in the first half and held it until UNLV tied it in the closing seconds, scored the first four points of overtime and outscored the Lady Rebels 9-5 in the overtime period.

“We had a couple of costly turnovers, we missed some free throws, and they had two traditional three-point plays on our fouls,” Selvig said of his team’s last-game execution. “It wasn’t like it was a total collapse, because UNLV made some good plays, but we didn’t do the little things that could have made it not come down to the last possession.

“Looking back, the really good thing is we lost momentum but we still stepped it up in overtime and won. Of course you don’t want to focus only on just those few minutes (when we gave up the lead), because we played really well for long stretches of that game.”

Lady Rebel Round-Up, lessons learned (No. 2): Montana followed its win over UNLV with a lopsided loss to Villanova on Sunday. The Wildcats went 9 for 15 from 3-point range in the first half and led 40-19 at the half.

The lead was 20 points or more the final 10:36, as Villanova finished 15 for 29 from 3-point range.

“Obviously we would try to defend them a little differently,” said Selvig, when asked what he would have changed had he known going in exactly how Villanova was going to shoot.

“But we tried zone, and we tried man. They’re good and they run good things, so they are going to get shots of some kind. They just like their shots to be threes.”

The reason the game got away from Montana was because the Lady Griz went 8 for 29 (.276) in the first half, 0 for 6 from three. Montana improved in the second half and finished the game at 35.7 percent, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Wildcats, who shot .509.

“The one thing that could have kept us in the game was scoring the ball better,” Selvig said. “If we were down eight or 10 at the half, it’s a completely different deal. We maybe could have weathered that early storm.

“But the combination of their shooting and us not shooting well, it was just too much to come back from.”

Season trend to like (No. 1): Montana has a sweet assist-to-turnover ratio for the season, nearly at the gold standard of 1:1. Montana has 66 assists through five games and just 67 turnovers. The Lady Griz have had more assists than turnovers in three of their first five games.

Players with the best ratios are senior Alyssa Smith (nine assists:three turnovers), junior Torry Hill (17:12) and sophomore Kellie Cole (8:6).

“We’re taking care of the ball pretty well, so turnovers haven’t been a problem for us,” Selvig said. “Getting the ball in the hole has been a bit of a problem.”

Season trend to like (No. 2): Montana has more than doubled the number of blocked shots by its opponents this season. The Lady Griz have 35, their first five opponents 17. Senior Katie Baker (16), sophomore Carly Selvig (10) and junior Jordan Sullivan (4) have accounted for 30 of the team’s 35 blocks.

Baker has twice this season blocked a career-high six shots. She swatted six against Temple and another six last Saturday against UNLV.

Shanae Gilham – UM Lady Griz Basketball. Photo by AustinSmith.

How’s Shanae Gilham? The freshman from Browning electrified the crowd in Montana’s 75-45 victory over MSU Northern on Nov. 13, with 12 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals in 25 minutes on 5-of-6 shooting, but she has not been in action since because of a minor knee injury.

Good news: Gilham has been practicing this week and should play Thursday.

Three-dot notes: Montana had out-rebounded its previous three opponents by 28 before Villanova out-boarded the Lady Griz 38-29. … Montana’s modest 3-2 record is its best five-game start since 2008-09. The 2009-10 team opened 1-4, and the last two Lady Griz teams started 2-3. … When Katie Baker gets rolling, look out. The senior, who has 1,048 career points, is averaging just 9.6 points on 34.5 percent shooting, well below her junior-year averages of 15.0 and 44.9. … Senior Kenzie De Boer, who reached double figures in scoring the season’s first four games, had that streak snapped with eight points against Villanova. Nobody for Montana reached double digits against the Wildcats. … De Boer is 101 points from becoming the 29th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. She is on pace to reach the milestone in January. … Senior Alyssa Smith’s career numbers are having an interesting neck-and-neck battle. She entered the season with 405 career points and 405 career rebounds. The boards currently have a +4 advantage, 429-425. … Cox Pavilion, site of last weekend’s tournament at UNLV, and junior Torry Hill won’t be exchanging Christmas cards. Hill went 2 for 14 from 3-point range in Montana’s two games and missed her first free throws of the season against UNLV last Saturday. … Hill’s nine points against Villanova give her an even 500 for her career. The odds are good she’ll become the program’s 30th 1,000-point scorer next winter. … Maggie Rickman, the efficient sophomore, is quietly leading the team in shooting at 56.3 percent. … Sophomore Carly Selvig has nine assists the last four games.

Upcoming: Montana will host (currently) unbeaten Wyoming (4-0) next Thursday at 7 p.m. The Cowgirls, who play at Colorado Wednesday and host Eastern Michigan on Saturday, have won all four of their games this season by at least 10 points.

Montana Sports Information  —  GoGriz.com