Lady Griz Host Eastern Washington and Portland State


The Montana women’s basketball team will host Eastern Washington and Portland State at Dahlberg Arena this week as it hosts its first Big Sky Conference games of the season. The Lady Griz will face the Eagles at 7 p.m. on Thursday and the Vikings on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Quick hitters: Montana (7-4, 1-1 BSC) opened its Big Sky schedule last week with a split of the Northern Arizona-Sacramento State road trip. The Lady Griz defeated the Lumberjacks 87-67 and fell to the Hornets 91-81. … Despite giving up 91 points on Saturday to Sac State, Montana still leads the Big Sky in both scoring defense (62.5/g) and field goal percentage defense (.365). … Eastern Washington (6-6, 2-1 BSC) defeated Weber State, 78-67, and Idaho State, 67-55, at home last week. The Eagles enter Thursday’s game with six wins in their last seven games. … Eastern Washington ranks fourth in the Big Sky in scoring at 71.0 points per game, but the Eagles are the league’s best shooting team, both overall (.444) and from 3-point range (.378). … Portland State (4-8, 2-1 BSC) split last week while hosting the same opponents. The Vikings fell to ISU 76-64 before rebounding with a 66-60 victory over WSU. … Portland State opened league play 10 days ago with a surprising 86-74 win at Eastern Washington. That victory snapped PSU’s four-game losing streak that had the Vikings losing four times by a total of 161 points.

Coverage: Thursday’s game will be aired locally on KMPT 930 AM. Saturday’s game will be aired on KGVO 1290 AM/101.5 FM. Tom Stage calls the play-by-play, with Dick Slater joining the broadcast. … Both games can be watched online, either through’s All-Access page (pay-per-view) or Big Sky TV (free). … will also offer live stats, with links available on the women’s basketball schedule page.

Talking points:

1. Thursday’s game features the two teams picked first (Eastern Washington) and second (Montana) in the preseason coaches’ poll. The Eagles were picked atop the poll because they returned four starters from last year’s third-place team that lost a six-point decision to No. 2 Northern Colorado in the semifinals of last year’s Big Sky tournament at Missoula. The Lady Griz are the defending Big Sky regular-season and tournament champions but returned just two starters from last year’s 24-win team. … Portland State, which has missed the last two Big Sky tournaments since hosting in 2011, was picked seventh in the preseason poll.

2. This week’s games feature the two teams that have had more recent success against the Lady Griz than any other in the Big Sky. Montana is 68-15 against Eastern Washington, but the teams are 4-4 in their last eight meetings. Portland State has won six of the last 10 meetings but still trails the all-time series 41-16. … The Vikings won at Dahlberg Arena in both 2009-10 and 2010-11, and the Eagles did the same thing in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Neither was able to become the first conference team to ever win three straight seasons at Dahlberg. Montana knocked off PSU in 2011-12 by 22 points and EWU by 25 points last season to hold down the insurrectionists. … But those are still four of the just 56 games Montana has lost at Dahlberg Arena under 36th-year coach Robin Selvig, so still pretty impressive. … Montana coach Robin Selvig and Portland State coach Sherri Murrell have faced each other 16 times at their current schools. Their head-to-head series is tied 8-8.

3. Thursday is the first time Montana will be playing a home game since losing 61-52 to Temple on Dec. 14. … Thursday is only Eastern Washington’s third true road game of the season. The Eagles have not played away from Cheney since losing to Butler in Las Vegas on Nov. 30 to fall to 0-5. … Montana is 4-1 at home this season, Eastern Washington is 0-4 away from home, Portland State is 1-3 away from home.

4. Last week was a statistical oddity. Montana shot better than 50 percent in back-to-back games for the first time since early in the 2008-09 season. The Lady Griz shot a season-high 56.1 percent in Thursday’s win at Northern Arizona, a game Montana led by 40 points late in the second half, and 51.5 percent in Saturday’s loss at Sacramento State.

Montana entered its games last week shooting 37.4 percent for the season. By the end of the Sac State game, that season average had risen to .405. The Lady Griz jumped more than 100 spots in the national rankings in field goal percentage because of their hot-shooting week. … The Lady Griz have not shot 40 percent or better for a season since finishing at 42.7 percent in 2008-09.

5. Eastern Washington junior guard Lexie Nelson is returning to where she got her collegiate start, and she’s playing better than ever, which is saying something considering she was a first-team All-Big Sky selection last season. She is averaging 17.9 points per game, and even with her funky release is shooting 54.0 percent from the field, 48.5 percent from 3-point range and 82.9 percent from the line.

Nelson was in the same Montana recruiting class as current seniors Torry Hill and Jordan Sullivan and redshirt juniors Kellie Cole and Carly Selvig. Nelson opted to transfer after one season.

Things to like about Montana:

1. Kellie Cole is red hot. The redshirt junior guard scored a career-high 25 points in last Thursday’s win at Northern Arizona, which included a 5-for-5 effort from 3-point range. She followed that up with a 21-point game at Sac State. On the two-game road trip, she hit 19 of her 32 (.594) shots. … Cole is shooting 52.9 percent away from home this season (.390 at home).

2. After getting outrebounded by 14 and 6 in losses to Temple and Wyoming leading up to the Christmas break, Montana came out and outboarded Northern Arizona by 12 and Sac State by 5 last week.

3. Montana still has not had a game this season with more turnovers than assists. … In Thursday’s win at NAU, the Lady Griz had 27 assists (on 37 field goals), just two shy of the program record. Senior guard Torry Hill had 14 of those assists to finish within one of Brooklynn Lorenzen’s and Kelly Pilcher’s program record.

Things to be concerned about:

1. The Lady Griz are getting hurt at the free throw line. Each of Montana’s last nine opponents has gotten to the line more than the Lady Griz. The discrepancy in those nine games: -94 attempts. Record in those nine games: 5-4.

2. Montana gave up 103 points in back-to-back halves last week against Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. The Lumberjacks scored 48 second-half points, the Hornets 55 first-half points.

3. After turning the ball over no more than 15 times in their first nine games, the Lady Griz had 22 turnovers at Northern Arizona and 20 more at Sacramento State (though a larger-than-normal number was expected against the Hornets).

Who to look for Thursday: Nelson is having a fantastic junior season, but senior center Laura Hughes is providing a nice interior complement to Nelson’s perimeter-based game. Hughes is averaging 15.6 points on 62.1 percent shooting. Can’t remember who she is? Hughes had the game-winning offensive rebound and free throws with 1.8 seconds left in the Eagles’ 58-56 win last January in Cheney. … Hayley Hodgins, a redshirt sophomore guard/forward and last year’s Big Sky Outstanding Freshman, is averaging 12.3 points.

Who to look for Saturday: Back on Dec. 27, someone writing for ranked Portland State No. 11 out of 11 Big Sky Conference teams on the site’s New Year’s power poll. It’s fun to imagine senior guard Kate Lanz reading that and taking it personally, because she has been on a tear since the start of league play. She had a 22-point, 11 rebound, 10-assist triple-double in Portland State’s upset win at Eastern Washington on Dec. 29, and the Oregon State transfer is averaging 18.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists through three league games (though is shooting just 23.4 percent in those games). … Senior forward Allie Brock (12.1 ppg) and senior forward Angela Misa (10.5 ppg) give the Vikings two more double-figure scorers.

Montana player notes:

* Torry Hill ranks third in the Big Sky in assists (5.2/g), fourth in 3-point field goals made (2.5/g) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9) and sixth in steals (2.4/g).

* Jordan Sullivan had a career-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting (4 for 5 from 3-point range) against Sacramento State. Her 10 rebounds in that game gave her two double-doubles in Montana’s last four games and three for her career.

* Kellie Cole has gone 7 for 9 from the arc the last three games to up her 3-point shooting percentage to 41.7.

* Maggie Rickman went 10 for 13 (.769) from the floor in two games last week. Her nine rebounds and five assists against the Hornets on Saturday were both career highs.

* Carly Selvig is in a nice battle with North Dakota’s Alyssa Wall and Northern Colorado’s Stephanie Lee for the league lead in blocks. Selvig has 28, while Wall and Lee both have 29. … Selvig, at 2.5 rejections per game, ranks 25th nationally. Montana, at 6.5 per game, ranks third nationally.

* Hannah Doran and Haley Vining both played limited minutes at Sac State after missing the Northern Arizona game with minor knee injuries. That was the only missed game of the season for either player.

* Kayleigh Valley had a season-high eight points at NAU, and her three blocks led the team.

Big Sky Conference tilt-a-whirl:

* Someone please let the fans of Idaho State women’s basketball know that ISU still has a team and that the Bengals will be playing their first home game tomorrow night since Nov. 11.

* North Dakota has quietly jumped to the Big Sky Conference lead at 3-0. Two of those wins came against Northern Colorado, the other at home over a good Southern Utah team. UND’s game Thursday night at Idaho State will give everyone a pretty good indication of how good it really is.

* Most people have quit counting by now, but Weber State has lost its last 40 Big Sky games. The Wildcats host Northern Colorado on Thursday in their next chance to break the streak.

* Sacramento State is 10-1 overall and 2-0 in Big Sky play because 1) the Hornets play a unique style and 2) they do it really well. Plus Sac State has played seven of its first 11 games at home, and home games are conducive to winning with a game based on the 3-point shot.

The trend continues this week as the Hornets host Northern Arizona on Thursday and Southern Utah on Saturday. Sac State and SUU are the two highest scoring teams in the Big Sky, so let’s set the over/under for that game at 200 points.

Upcoming: Montana will return to the road next week and take on North Dakota and Northern Colorado.

Montana Sports Information