Lady Griz Facing Four Straight Road Games


The Montana women’s basketball team will play road games this week at Weber State and Idaho State. The Lady Griz will face the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ogden, Utah, and the Bengals at 2 p.m. Saturday at Pocatello, Idaho.

Montana’s two games this week are the start of four straight road games for the Lady Griz. Montana will play at Southern Utah on Wednesday, Feb. 26, and at Montana State on Monday, March 3.

The Lady Griz will conclude their regular-season schedule with home games against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona March 6 and 8.

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. … Both games can be watched on Big Sky TV and tracked via live stats. Links to all available services can be found on the women’s basketball schedule page at

Openers: Montana is 16-7, winner of seven of its last eight games and tied for second in the Big Sky Conference with Southern Utah at 10-4. Both teams trail first-place North Dakota, which is 11-4. … The Lady Griz won a pair of home games last week, 61-55 over Northern Colorado and 52-49 over North Dakota to improve to 8-0 at home in Big Sky games. … Montana had lost to both the Bears and UND last month on the road. … Weber State is 5-18 overall and now 1-13 in Big Sky games after defeating Idaho State 84-71 at Ogden Monday night. … With the win, the Wildcats ended a 51-game Big Sky Conference losing streak that dated back to February 2011. … Idaho State is 9-14 and tied for sixth in the Big Sky with Montana State at 7-7. … The Bengals have lost three straight games, which followed a stretch of six wins in seven games. … Montana defeated Weber State in Missoula last month 68-52. Two days before that the Lady Griz defeated the Bengals 67-48.

What’s at stake (Montana): After six Big Sky Conference games Montana was sitting with a 3-3 league record and not looking like a championship contender. But the 20-game conference schedule requires patience, and the Lady Griz have won seven of eight to get back into the mix.

With three teams — North Dakota, Montana, Southern Utah — having four Big Sky losses each and just three weeks of regular-season games remaining, wins and losses become magnified (even though they are no more or less important than wins and losses in early January).

With four straight games on the road, where Montana is 2-4 in Big Sky play, it feels like a stretch of games that could define the Lady Griz’ postseason role as either traveler or host.

What’s at stake (Weber State): Very little. The Wildcats broke their 51-game Big Sky Conference losing streak Monday with their victory over Idaho State, and WSU isn’t going to the Big Sky tournament.

What’s at stake (Idaho State): Idaho State is good enough to be with North Dakota, Montana and Southern Utah atop the Big Sky standings, but an inability to close out some tight games has hurt the Bengals (see below).

Idaho State’s current three-game losing streak has been quite damaging to ISU’s tournament prospects. The Bengals are tied for sixth in the league standings with Montana State at 7-7. Both teams are half a game up on 7-8 and eighth-place Northern Colorado. Seven teams make the Big Sky tournament.

Tournament breakdown: With three weeks of league games remaining, here is how things feel at the moment:

Tournament locks and battling for tournament hosting rights: North Dakota (11-4 BSC), Montana (10-4), Southern Utah (10-4). Who has the edge in this group? See below.

Tournament locks and playing for seeding: Eastern Washington (8-6), Sacramento State (8-6). Both are too good to freefall out of the top seven.

Three teams fighting for two tournament spots: Montana State (7-7), Idaho State (7-7), Northern Colorado (7-8). Important home stand for the Bears this week against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. After that it’s at Eastern Washington, at Portland State, at Southern Utah to end the season.

The first time around: Montana defeated Idaho State 67-48 on Jan. 23 in a game that was over by halftime. The Lady Griz, who committed a season-low five turnovers in the game, jumped out to a 35-15 halftime lead and didn’t let the Bengals get closer than 19 points in the second half.

Jordan Sullivan had 17 points and nine rebounds for Montana, Kara Jenkins had 10 points and nine rebounds for Idaho State.

Two days later Montana knocked off better-than-its-record Weber State 68-52. The Wildcats were within one at the break, 28-27, and still within four with eight minutes left. The Lady Griz shot 48.1 percent in the second half to finally pull away.

Torry Hill had 19 points for Montana, Desiree Ramos 17 for Weber State.

Sub-.500 record deceiving: Montana has built its 10-4 Big Sky record mostly on the strength of its 8-0 mark at home. On the road the Lady Griz are just 2-4. That’s an unattractive record, but things are better than they appear at first glance.

None of Montana’s four losses has been by more than 10 points, and in three of the losses the Lady Griz held a second-half lead. And Montana’s win at Northern Arizona, a game the Lady Griz led by 40 points, is looking better and better.

Was Monday’s result good news or bad news for Montana? No coach in the Big Sky Conference talked about it publically, but none wanted to be the team that finally lost to Weber State to end the Wildcats’ long Big Sky losing streak. Get in, win, get out, and let the next team deal with it.

Idaho State put an end to the storyline that had been bubbling beneath the surface when the Bengals gave up 52 second-half points and lost at Ogden Monday.

So the question remains: Was that a good result or a bad one for Montana? The Lady Griz no longer have to face the prospect of being the team that might finally lose to Weber State. But are the Wildcats, who have much better talent than their 1-13 league record indicates, going to play looser now that they don’t have the streak hanging over their heads?

“They’ve been a good enough team to dump people, so (winning Monday) can be nothing but a positive for them,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “They closed one out, which they hadn’t been able to do.”

The nature of the Big Sky Conference: What would it take to see Idaho State atop the Big Sky Conference standings? Not much.

The Bengals lost twice to North Dakota, by one point at home and in overtime at Grand Forks. At Pocatello, Idaho State had the ball down one in the final minute and at UND, ISU had the ball in the final minute of regulation in a tie game.

In last week’s four-point home loss to Southern Utah, Idaho State held a nine-point, second-half lead and had the ball down two in the final minute. On Monday the Bengals let an eight-point, second-half lead slip away.

“With the way the league is this year, just about every team can look back at missed opportunities, but if you do that, you’d drive yourself crazy thinking about the if’s, and’s or but’s,” Selvig said. “That’s been the nature of it.

“You just have to focus on your next game and try to do your best.”

Advantage Southern Utah: There are still three weeks to go, but it’s good to be Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds, at least on paper, have the clearest route to the regular-season championship.

After this week’s trip to Eastern Washington and Portland State, two teams SUU defeated at home, the Thunderbirds play their final four games at home. Included in those home games are contests against Montana and North Dakota, which gives SUU a chance to mostly control its postseason fate.

Hurray, no Shanae: Sophomore guard Shanae Gilham is redshirting this season, and no one is happier about it than Idaho State.

When Montana and Idaho State met last season at Pocatello, Gilham scored 10 second-half points on perfect shooting in just eight minutes on the floor to help Montana rally for a 57-52 victory. In retrospect, the result over the defending Big Sky champion helped springboard the Lady Griz to their own regular-season championship.

Make of this what you want: Montana is 54-12 against Weber State and Idaho State on the road. … The Lady Griz are 63-11 all-time against the Wildcats, with seven straight wins. Montana is 65-8 against the Bengals, with three straight wins.

Slow starters: Montana has trailed at the half in four of its last six games and has come back to win three of those. The Lady Griz trailed Southern Utah by two at the half and won by eight, trailed at Portland State by eight at the half and won 65-55 and trailed North Dakota by nine at the half and won 52-49.

You don’t see that every day: Montana out-rebounded North Dakota 38-37 in Saturday’s win. UND, one of the top teams in the nation in rebounding margin (currently +12.0 in Big Sky games), had not been out-rebounded by an opponent since Dec. 28 when Iowa did it.

Fifteen of Montana’s rebounds against North Dakota came on the offensive end. Coupled with just eight turnovers, it allowed the Lady Griz to take 17 more shots than UND, and that did just enough to help offset Montana’s 32.3 percent shooting performance.

What is it about North Dakota teams? Montana’s three lowest shooting performances of the season: .308 against North Dakota State, .323 against North Dakota and .323 again against North Dakota.

Takeaway points from last week’s two games to consider: Montana went 2-0 while going 7 for 40 (.175) from 3-point range. … The Lady Griz were +6 on the boards against UNC and UND. Those teams were +23 when Montana played them on the road last month. … Montana’s starting backcourt of Torry Hill and Kellie Cole had 19 assists and six turnovers last week. … Hill is 6 for 30 from 3-point range the last four games, but she hit two threes in the opening minute of the second half against North Dakota that helped spark the Lady Griz’ comeback. … Cole averaged 15.5 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists last week to earn her third Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award of the season.

Pacing herself for the stretch run, perhaps: Montana has been winning recently without a lot of scoring punch from Jordan Sullivan. She is averaging 6.5 points the last four games on 26.5 percent shooting. Sullivan had scored at least 11 points in 13 of the team’s previous 14 games.

Record watching: Torry Hill’s two 3-pointers against North Dakota give her 186 for her career and moves her into a tie for fourth on the UM career list with Mandy Morales (2005-09). Hill is 20 behind third-place Sonya Rogers (2005-09). … Speaking of Hill, she has 928 career points. With at least seven games left, Hill is looking good to become the 30th member of Montana’s 1,000-point club. … With one more steal, Hill will move into the top 10 in career steals. … Hill already ranks ninth in career assists and should be No. 7 on the list by the end of the season. … With two blocks against North Dakota, Carly Selvig moved past 2013 Big Sky MVP Katie Baker (2009-13) and into fifth on the UM career list with 158.

Other things of interest: Jordan Sullivan’s last 3-pointer came against Southern Utah on Feb. 1. In the seven games before that game, Sullivan had gone 15 for 20 from the arc. … Over Montana’s last three games, Maggie Rickman is averaging 9.7 points on 60.9 percent shooting. If that trend continues and Sullivan returns to form, watch out. … Given its 12-1 record at home and 4-6 record away from Missoula, one might be surprised to read the Lady Griz are shooting better on the road (.414) than at home (.406) this season. The difference has been on the defensive end. Teams are shooting 34.8 percent against the Lady Griz at Dahlberg Arena and 40.5 percent elsewhere. … Montana’s 16 first-half points against North Dakota was its lowest scoring half of the season

The non-Montana game to track (Thursday): Southern Utah at Eastern Washington. The Thunderbirds have won seven of eight, the Eagles four of five. In the teams’ first meeting in Cedar City, SUU escaped with a 62-61 win.

The non-Montana game to track (Saturday): Sacramento State at North Dakota. UND tried to outscore the Hornets in the teams’ first meeting and lost 110-104. Note to North Dakota: Sac State has averaged 70.6 points in its six league losses.