Bring On The Owls: Lady Griz Hosts Temple Saturday

By JOEL CARLSON

The Montana women’s basketball team will end finals week with a home game against Temple on Saturday night at Dahlberg Arena. The Lady Griz and Owls will tip off at 7 p.m.

At a glance: Montana is 6-1, the team’s best start since the 2006-07 team opened 17-1. Montana won its own Lady Griz Classic last weekend with victories over Idaho and UC Irvine to extend its winning streak to three games.

Temple is 4-2 and will be playing its first road game in more than a month on Saturday. The Owls’ losses this season have come by four points to No. 18 Michigan State, 74-70, and a 73-53 defeat at the hands of St. Joseph’s on Dec. 4 in Temple’s most recent game.

Coverage: Saturday’s game will be aired locally on KGVO 1290 AM and 101.5 FM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. … Video streaming, which is synced to the radio broadcast, is available with a GoGriz.com All-Access subscription. … Live stats are available through the women’s basketball schedule page at GoGriz.com.

TEAM STATS(PDF)

Since Saturday’s game is 11 days before Christmas, 11 reasons to go to the game:

1. Because with the Grizzlies bowing out of the FCS playoffs, there is no Saturday football conflict like there was last weekend. And if you are curious to see how Coastal Carolina does against two-time defending national champion North Dakota State on Saturday, the Chanticleers and Bison kick off at 10 a.m. (MT) on ESPN, which still leaves plenty of time to get to Dahlberg Arena.

2. Because Saturday’s weather forecast is calling for a high of 36 degrees. That’s much more conducive to getting out of the house than last weekend’s below-zero temperatures that were around for the Lady Griz Classic.

Lady Griz Basketball. Photo by Austin Smith.3. Because none of the players on Temple’s roster has ever been to Montana. Only second-year assistant coach Meg Barber has been to the state, and that was on vacation. Griz Nation only has one chance to make a first impression, and that impression should be, We take our women’s basketballseriously.

4. Because Montana’s usual tip time of 2 p.m. for Saturday games won’t be in effect until the Big Sky Conference schedule begins in January. That leaves plenty of time for Christmas shopping during the day and the Lady Griz game that night.

5. Because there might be some leftover cake from last Friday, when 36th-year coach Robin Selvig was recognized for reaching the 800-win mark.

6. Because Montana has had four NCAA tournament teams since 2006-07, and none of them started out the season with six wins in their first seven games.

7. Because if you don’t go to Saturday’s game, you’ll have to wait nearly a month to see the Lady Griz again at home. Montana plays at Wyoming on Tuesday in its final game before Christmas, then opens Big Sky Conference play at Northern Arizona and Sacramento State the first weekend of January. The next home game after Saturday isn’t until Thursday, Jan. 9, against Big Sky preseason favorite Eastern Washington.

8. Because McCalle Feller (concussion) is back after missing the Lady Griz Classic, and you need the type of edge-of-your-seat unpredictability in your life that only McCalle Feller can provide.

9. Because this is one in-game dynamic that should be fun to watch play out: Temple has forced 116 turnovers through six games, an average of more than 19 per game. Montana ranks 18th nationally in fewest turnovers per game at 12.6. One of the two teams isn’t going to be average on Saturday.

10. And another: Montana is holding its opponents to 34.5 percent shooting and 55.6 points per game. Temple is averaging nearly 69 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting. Something’s going to give.

11. Because this is delightful basketball: 120 assists this season and only 88 turnovers. That ratio (1.36) ranks 12th nationally, and that’s two spots better than Stanford. Montana’s point guards — Torry Hill and Haley Vining — have 50 assists this season and 21 turnovers.

Most recently: Montana won its Lady Griz Classic for the 30th time in 33 editions with victories last weekend over Idaho and UC Irvine.

Montana escaped the Vandals 59-56 with a Kellie Cole 3-pointer with 16 seconds left and raced out to a 16-point halftime lead on the Anteaters on its way to a 71-48 win.

Senior Jordan Sullivan averaged 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in UM’s two wins to earn MVP honors. She shot 50 percent in the two games and scored a career-high 16 points, all in the first half, on Friday.

Cole was named all-tournament. After coming up with the game-winner Friday, she had nine points, a career-high seven assists and five rebounds on Saturday, while committing zero turnovers in 32 minutes.

Game Notes:

* Temple is unbeaten on the road this season (2-0). Montana hasn’t lost at home in four games this year and has won 11 straight at Dahlberg Arena dating back to last season. The last home loss: 58-49 to Montana State on Jan. 19.

* Temple will be coming off a 10-day break for finals. Montana’s break will have been one week.

* The Owls will travel on Sunday to upstate New York for a game Monday night against No. 25 Syracuse. By the time Temple gets back to Philadelphia, the Owls will have traveled more than 4,800 miles on their two-game road trip.

* Temple coach Tonya Cardoza is in her sixth year. She has a record of 111-59.

* Montana redshirt sophomore point guard Haley Vining has 18 assists and four turnovers off the bench this season for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.5. That ratio would rank third nationally if Vining met the NCAA minimum standard of 3.0 assists per game. She is three assists shy of qualifying.

* Temple relies heavily on its five starters, who range in age from a true freshman (guard Feyonda Fitzgerald) to a fifth-year senior (forward Natasha Thames). Fitzgerald (33.8/g), junior guard Tyonna Williams (35.8/g) and graduate-school guard Shi-Heria Shipp (31.2/g) all play more than 31 minutes per game. Shipp played and earned her degree at George Washington before transferring to Temple for her final season of eligibility.

Those five starters all average between 9.0 and 14.8 points per game and account for nearly 90 percent of the team’s scoring. Fitzgerald, from Norfolk, Va., averages a team-high 14.8 points per game but on 36.5 percent shooting.

* Temple opened the season with two road games, wins at La Salle and Delaware, and has since played four straight at home.

* Temple was picked to finish ninth (out of 10 teams) in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll. The two teams atop the poll: Connecticut and Louisville, who met in last year’s NCAA championship game.

* Montana ranks third nationally in blocked shots (7.0/g) and eighth in fewest personal fouls per game (14.6/g), which is a pretty sweet combination that points not only to good shot blockers but also to good post-defense coaching.

* Senior Torry Hill ranks 21st nationally in steals (3.0/g) and 36th in made 3-point field goals (2.9/g). Redshirt junior Carly Selvig ranks 26th in blocked shots (2.6/g).

* Montana has not had a game this season in which the Lady Griz have had more turnovers than assists.

* The Lady Griz have hit 10 or more 3-pointers three times this season, against MSU Northern (10), Denver (12) and UC Irvine (10). Montana reached 10 last season just one time.

* Torry Hill has 23 assists the last four games.

* Montana took a total of 10 free throws in two wins last weekend at the Lady Griz Classic. Montana went 5 for 6 against Idaho and 3 for 4 against UC Irvine.

History: Montana opened last season at Temple, and that was the first meeting between the two teams. The teams were tied at 27-27 at the half, but the Lady Griz went just 5 for 28 (.179) in the second half, which allowed the Owls to pull away for a 55-41 victory.

Torry Hill had 13 points for Montana, while 6-5 center Victoria Macaulay had 21 points and 16 rebounds for Temple. Macaulay was a senior last season.

Coach Selvig’s scouting report: “Offensively they are good off the dribble and have a lot of kids who can score. They don’t play a lot of kids, but they are very balanced. We’ll need to defend them off the dribble, which we’ve had to do this year against a number of teams. They have kids who can create their own shots and score in different ways.

“And we’ll need to handle their pressure. They do some pressing, and they mix it up with both man and zone. This will be the quickest, most athletic team we’ve played this year, so we need to make sure we get good shots.

“They have size and athleticism and are just a really good, talented team.”

Telltale Saturday: There will have been just one Big Sky Conference game this week — Weber State’s near upset of unbeaten BYU on Tuesday; the Wildcats led by 24 early in the second half but couldn’t hold on — by the time Saturday rolls around. Then it will be a number of games that start to put the Big Sky in perspective.

* North Dakota hosts North Dakota State. In its most recent game, an improved UND squad held a 13-point halftime lead at Minnesota but couldn’t pull the upset, losing by two on a late basket. And of course the Bison were the only team to beat Montana this season, 70-53 at Loyola Marymount’s tournament.

* Sacramento State hosts UC Irvine. Montana and Sacramento State are tied atop the Big Sky standings with 6-1 records. UC Irvine will be the teams’ first common opponent. The Lady Griz defeated UCI 71-48 in the championship game of last weekend’s Lady Griz Classic. Note: The Hornets’ record is no fluke. They’ve won at Oregon and are still the only team this season with a win over 7-1 St. Mary’s.

* Eastern Washington hosts Idaho. The preseason Big Sky Conference favorite — Montana was picked second behind the Eagles — hosts the team the Lady Griz defeated 59-56 on a Kellie Cole 3-pointer last Friday.

* Oregon hosts Portland State. This could be another long day for the Vikings, who lost 96-47 at Gonzaga in their most recent game. Seems like forever since PSU was among the Big Sky’s elite teams, but it did host the Big Sky tournament just three seasons ago.

Upcoming: Montana will play at Wyoming (6-2) Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Cowgirls host Ball State on Saturday afternoon.

Montana Sports Information