Kellie Cole Named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week

Kellie Cole

Junior guard, Kellie Cole. Photo by Austin Smith forMakeItMissoula.com

By MEGAN LOBDELL for the Big Sky Conference

Montana’s Kellie Cole has been named the Big Sky Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the games played the week of Feb. 10-Feb. 16.

Cole, a senior from Bozeman, Mont., averaged 15.5 points on 57.1 percent shooting, six rebounds and four assists as Montana went 2-0 last week with home wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota that pulled the Lady Griz within half a game of Big Sky Conference leader UND.

Coming off a zero-point game in Montana’s loss at Eastern Washington on Feb. 8, Cole had a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists as the Lady Griz defeated Northern Colorado 61-55 on Thursday.

In Saturday’s 52-49 comeback win over North Dakota, a game Montana trailed by 10 early, by nine at the half and by six with 3:30 to play, Cole had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting and four assists.

Others Nominated: Hayley Hodgins, Eastern Washington; Kellie Cole, Kara Jenkins, Idaho State; Montana; Jasmine Hommes, Montana State; Emily Evers, North Dakota; Erikka Banks, Northern Arizona; Stephanie Lee, Northern Colorado; Emily Easom, Portland State; Alle Moreno, Sacramento State and Andrea Jones, Southern Utah

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By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

Other players in the league had more impressive individual performances last week than Montana junior guard Kellie Cole, but no team had the week the Lady Griz had, and the team’s success resulted in Cole earning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors Monday.

On Saturday alone, Northern Colorado’s Stephanie Lee had a 36-point masterpiece on 15-of-20 shooting in the Bears’ 65-59 road win at Montana State, and Northern Arizona’s Erikka Banks posted a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double in the Lumberjacks’ home win over Eastern Washington.

In comparison, Cole had pedestrian numbers last week: 15.5 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, but they came in home wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota that helped the Lady Griz pull within half a game of Big Sky leader UND.

“Oftentimes the success of a team gets overlooked in individual awards,” said UM assistant coach Shannon Schweyen. “So I think it’s great that the conference recognized the magnitude of our wins. Nobody had huge numbers for us, but Kellie had solid numbers.

“Those were big wins for us, and Kellie did a lot on both ends of the floor.”

Kellie Cole (3)

Junior Guard, Kellie Cole. Photo courtesy of University of Montana SportsInformation.

Montana, which has won seven of its last eight, defeated the Bears on Thursday, 61-55, and knocked off North Dakota on Saturday, 52-49. The Lady Griz won the latter by digging out of a nine-point halftime hole and rallying from a six-point deficit with 3:30 left.

Cole had a superb all-around game against UNC, totaling 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, while committing just a single turnover in 30 minutes. In Saturday’s win over UND, Cole had 13 points and 4 assists. She went 5 for 9 from the field on a day Montana shot 32.3 percent.

And to think Cole was questionable to play in the days leading up to Thursday’s game against Northern Colorado.

She suffered a bruised tailbone on Feb. 3 in Montana’s overtime win against Montana State and a toe injury early in Montana’s loss on Feb. 8 at Eastern Washington. Those injuries led to Cole playing a season-low 22 minutes against the Eagles.

Her stat line in Montana’s first loss since Jan. 18: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists.

“Coming off the injuries, we weren’t really sure Kellie was going to be 100 percent and ready to go (against Northern Colorado), but she came out and battled hard,” Schweyen said.

This week’s award is Cole’s third of the season. She earned her first career award from the Big Sky in November after Montana defeated Portland. She was recognized again on Jan. 13 after the Lady Griz posted home wins over Eastern Washington and Portland State.

Cole redshirted in 2010-11 and averaged 5.7 points and 2.3 rebounds the next two seasons while playing valuable minutes off the bench.

All of her numbers have spiked this year as a full-time starter averaging over 31 minutes per game. She leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points while shooting a team-leading 47.5 percent. She ranks second on the team in assists with 68 (3.0/g) and is grabbing 5.0 rebounds per game as a guard.

“Kellie was behind some pretty talented players the last few years, but now that it’s her turn to shine, she’s making the most of it,” Schweyen said.

“With what we lost last year, a lot of people didn’t really know what to expect from us this season. What Kellie’s done is what this program has been about over the years. When a kid has a chance to emerge, she does.”