Lady Griz Bounce Back With Convincing Win Over ISU

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

Kellie Cole scored a career-high 27 points and Montana led from start to finish in a 76-67 victory over Idaho State Saturday afternoon at Pocatello, Idaho.

The win gave the Lady Griz a split of its two-game road trip and provided Montana the rebound it desperately needed after Thursday night’s disappointing two-point loss at Weber State.

“This was just a great, great win for us,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “Especially after playing like we did at Weber and being unable to make the plays when we had a chance to win that game.”

On Saturday Montana jumped out to a 12-0 lead, led 47-35 at the half and had to weather just one serious Idaho State comeback attempt that cut the lead to two, 65-63, with two and a half minutes to play.

With the game in the balance, Idaho State committed costly turnovers on consecutive possessions, and the Lady Griz went 9 for 10 from the line over the final two-plus minutes to keep themselves in the three-team conversation about hosting the Big Sky Conference postseason tournament.

Junior Guard Kellie Cole. UM versus Portland, November 18, 2013. Photo by Austin Smith for MakeItMissoula.com

Junior Guard Kellie Cole. UM versus Portland, November 18, 2013. Photo by Austin Smith forMakeItMissoula.com

“We came out and really shot it well to start with,” Selvig said, “and that really helped us, because you start to feel like you can’t score.”

The Big Sky’s three leaders — North Dakota, Montana and Southern Utah — all were victorious Saturday. UND won at home over Sacramento State, 87-57, and the Thunderbirds collected a big road win at Portland State, 86-79.

North Dakota, with a 13-4 record, holds a one-game advantage in the loss column over Montana and Southern Utah, which are both 11-5. UND is in control of its postseason fate, but North Dakota closes its season with three straight tough road games: at Portland State, Eastern Washington and Southern Utah.

Montana has upcoming road games at Southern Utah and Montana State before closing at home with Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. The Thunderbirds finish with four straight at home, including games with both North Dakota and Montana.

Cole, who was held scoreless Thursday at Weber State, helped keep Montana in a tie for second with a career afternoon Saturday. She hit 11 of her 17 shots and produced a balanced scoring game, with 13 points in the first half and 14 in the second.

Her pull-up jumper with four minutes left helped slow Idaho State’s rally, and it was her two free throws with 2:18 remaining that gave Montana some breathing room after the Bengals had cut the lead to two.

“She’s been our Miss Jekyll and Miss Hyde lately,” Selvig said. “Thursday night she goes for zero and doesn’t look very confident.

“Today was the Kellie I know and love. She looked like a player who was confident in her shooting. She had a heck of a game.”

Cole got plenty of help from her backcourt running mate, Torry Hill. The point guard scored 19 points and dished out a game-high six assists with only one turnover while playing all 40 minutes.

And she was a big part of why the Lady Griz got off to the start they did.

She assisted on two of Montana’s first three baskets in the opening two minutes, and her 3-pointer at the 16:51 mark made it 12-0. She had 10 points, four assists and four rebounds in the first half.

Montana built its second-half lead to 14 points, 53-39, on a Cole basket at the 13:39 mark and still led by 10, 63-53, with six minutes to play before Idaho State made its final push.

Rebecca Schrimpsher hit back-to-back threes, and Lindsey Reed, who followed up her 34-point game Thursday with 21 more on Saturday, hit a three of her own to cut the lead to 65-62.

51v8UngXsoL

Show your Montana Spirit. CLICK HERE to order your UMFlag.

After Kara Jenkins went 1 for 2 from the line to trim the lead to 65-63, Cole was perfect in her two attempts to make it 67-63, and back-to-back turnovers by Schrimpsher and solid work at the line by the Lady Griz allowed Montana to escape and improve to 28-6 all-time at Pocatello.

Montana committed just eight turnovers, 11 fewer than Thursday, and out-rebounded its fifth straight opponent. Seven different players grabbed at least three boards, led by Cole’s eight, and the Lady Griz finished with a 46-33 advantage to match its best rebounding differential of the conference season.

Montana allowed Idaho State just six offensive rebounds, which resulted in only seven second-chance points for the undersized Bengals.

The Lady Griz will play a rare Wednesday game next week when Montana plays at Southern Utah, a game both teams will need if they want to remain in the hunt to host the postseason tournament.

Montana will play its final regular-season road game a week from Monday at Montana State.

In Saturday’s other Big Sky games, Northern Arizona won 86-70 at Northern Colorado, and Montana State won 75-71 at Weber State.

2014-02-23_0927