Lady Griz Hit Road, Discover Hot Hands

By Joel Carlson

Senior Kenzie De Boer scored 27 points, two off her career high, and the Lady Griz used hot 3-point shooting and a big second half to bounce back from Saturday’s home loss to Montana State with a 78-63 victory at Southern Utah Monday night at Cedar City, Utah.

Montana (12-5, 6-2 BSC) improved to 5-0 this season in games following a loss and 10-0 when scoring 60 or more points.

Southern Utah (9-8, 3-4 BSC) led by one at the break, 34-33, mainly the result of forcing 14 first-half Lady Griz turnovers and getting to the line 18 times, but the second half was all Montana.

De Boer scored Montana’s first seven points of the second half, and her fourth 3-pointer of the night broke a 37-37 tie and gave the Lady Griz a lead they would hold the final 17:51.

Montana, which turned it over just seven times over the final 20 minutes, went 7 for 15 from 3-point range in the second half and finished 12 of 25 from the arc for the game, the most triples since hitting 15 in a 101-65 victory over Montana State in the 2008 Big Sky Conference tournament championship game.

“In the second half we finally started taking care of the ball and making some shots,” UM coach Robin Selvig said. “We had kids knocking down shots that some games just don’t drop.

Senior Kenzie De Boer scored 27 points, two off her career high to lead the Lady Griz to victory over Southern Utah Monday night at Cedar City, UT. Photo by AustinSmith.

“It’s just a lot easier game when you look at the final stat sheet and see this player made two, this player made two and that player made one and not she didn’t make any and she didn’t make any.”

Southern Utah played Big Sky leader Montana State to a six-point game last Thursday at Cedar City by playing a rugged contest high in fouls, free throws and turnovers. The first half Monday followed the same script.

Montana entered the game averaging just 11.8 turnovers per game. It had 14 by the break against the aggressive Thunderbirds, and SUU also bulled its way to the line 18 times in the opening half.

“We led most of the first half, but we had 14 turnovers,” Selvig said. “(Southern Utah) is something. They dig, grab, play hard, play physical. It’s a workout.

“They are very aggressive in taking it to you and going to the basket, so they do a good job of creating fouls. They are pretty salty, so to get away from them in the second half was a darn good effort by us.”

De Boer, who went 3 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half, sparked Montana early with 13 points by the half. In the second frame her teammates helped pick up the scoring slack as the Lady Griz shot 51.7 percent and outscored the Thunderbirds 45-29.

Juniors Torry Hill and Jordan Sullivan and freshman Shanae Gilham combined to go 5 for 8 from the arc in the second half, and that offensive outburst helped Montana build a lead that would remain at least 12 points the final 10 minutes.

And De Boer didn’t ease off either. She hit five of her six shots in the second half and also finished the night with four of Montana’s 16 steals.

Hill, with four first-half turnovers, was part of Montana’s sloppy start, but she turned it around and posted one of the best stat lines of her career: 9 points, 8 assists, a career-high 7 steals and a career-high 6 rebounds.

With sophomore backup Kellie Cole struggling against Southern Utah’s pressure, much as she did Saturday against Montana State’s, Hill also needed to play a game-high 32 minutes

“Torry had a great game,” Selvig said. “She had a shaky start in terms of turnovers, but she played well and made a couple of big threes, which we expect she is going to make every now and then, and she did tonight.”

De Boer’s 27 points, which came with a 5-for-7 effort from 3-point range, led both teams. Sullivan scored a season-high 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, senior Katie Baker added 11, and sophomore Carly Selvig came off the bench to contribute 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Andrea Jones scored 18 points off the bench for Southern Utah, which shot 38.3 percent to become the first team in seven games to shoot better than 33 percent against Montana. The Lady Griz forced 25 turnovers and finished with 16 steals. Both were season highs.

The Thunderbirds made it to the line 18 more times in the second half, 36 for the game, to take seven more free throws than any other Montana opponent this season, but their 23 makes from the charity stripe weren’t enough to keep pace with the Lady Griz on a big night from 3-point range.

It was a good start to a long, three-game road trip for Montana, which held on to its second-place standing in the Big Sky Conference. The Lady Griz will face defending Big Sky champion and preseason league favorite Idaho State (10-7, 5-3 BSC) Thursday at Pocatello, Idaho, then continue on to face Weber State (0-17, 0-8 BSC) Saturday at Ogden, Utah.

“This was a good way for us to bounce back after a very disappointing game against the Cats and start a three-game road trip,” Selvig said.

Montana vs Southern Utah BoxScore

Montana Sports Information  —  GoGriz.com