Lady Griz Host Final Home Games This Week


The Montana women’s basketball team will wrap up its regular-season schedule this week with home games against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. The Lady Griz will host the Hornets Thursday at 7 p.m. and the Lumberjacks Saturday at 2 p.m.

Montana will play next week in the seven-team Big Sky Conference tournament, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at a site to be determined (more below).

Coverage: Both games this week will be aired locally on KMPT 930 AM, with Mick Holien and Dick Slater calling the action. The audio stream can also be found on the All-Access page at Video coverage of both games is available through Big Sky TV or All-Access.

Quick hitters (Montana): The Lady Griz are 18-9 overall and alone in third place in the Big Sky Conference with a 12-6 league record. They trail second-place Southern Utah (19-8, 13-5 BSC) by a game and first-place North Dakota (20-8, 15-4 BSC) by 2.5 games. … Montana could be as high as the No. 2 seed and as low as the No. 5 seed at next week’s tournament. … The Lady Griz are 8-0 at home this season against Big Sky opponents, the only team in the league without a home loss. … Montana opened its Big Sky schedule in early January with a split on the road against SAC and NAU. The Lady Griz won at Northern Arizona 87-67 and lost at Sacramento State 91-81. … The Lady Griz are 46-3 at home against Sac State (18-0) and Northern Arizona (28-3).

Quick hitters (Sacramento State): The Hornets are one of five teams that have clinched a tournament spot. … Sac State is 18-9 overall, 10-8 in Big Sky Conference play and alone in fifth place. … The Hornets could be as high as the No. 3 seed and as low as the No. 7 seed at next week’s tournament. … Sac State leads the nation in both 3-point field goals (12.4/g) and steals (13.4/g) and ranks fifth in scoring (84.3/g). … The Hornets have made 336 threes this season. With six more they will match the NCAA single-season record, set by Florida Gulf Coast in 2011-12. … Sacramento State opened the season 11-1. The Hornets have played sub-.500 basketball (7-8) since then. … Sac State is 2-6 on the road during league games.

Quick hitters (Northern Arizona): The Lumberjacks are alone in ninth place in the Big Sky at 6-12, 9-18 overall. … Despite its position, NAU is still alive to make the Big Sky tournament. It needs to go 2-0 on its upcoming road trip, have Montana State go 0-2 at home and have North Dakota and Northern Colorado both lose at Southern Utah. And then have SUU finish ahead of North Dakota in the tiebreaker. It’s a long shot, but at least the Lumberjacks leave Flagstaff with hope. … Senior guard Amanda Frost leads the Big Sky in scoring, both for the season (21.8/g) and during league play (23.1/g). She scored 24 on Montana in the teams’ first meeting, with 19 coming in the second half on 7-of-11 shooting.

Big Sky Conference tournament rundown:

* Next week’s tournament is going to be hosted by either North Dakota, which has already clinched at least a share of the regular-season championship, or Southern Utah.

If UND, which has just a single game remaining, wins at Southern Utah Thursday evening, North Dakota will win the outright title and earn tournament hosting rights. If the Thunderbirds win Thursday, another victory Saturday over Northern Colorado would give SUU a share of the title.

With the standings the way they are today, North Dakota would hold the tiebreaker in the event of a tie with SUU based on its season sweep of fourth-place Eastern Washington. Southern Utah would gain the advantage if Sacramento State finishes ahead of Eastern Washington.

* Sixth-place Idaho State can clinch a tournament spot with a win at home Thursday against Eastern Washington or at home Saturday against Portland State.

The big question: If North Dakota and Southern Utah finish tied atop the Big Sky standings at 15-5, who wins the Big Sky Coach of the Year award, UND’s Travis Brewster or SUU’s J.R. Payne? Probably Brewster.

Southern Utah made the tournament last season and was picked sixth in the Big Sky preseason poll. North Dakota did not make last year’s tournament and was picked eighth in this year’s poll.

Most recently (Montana): The Lady Griz played their worst game of the season last Wednesday in a 69-49 loss at Southern Utah. Montana shot 25.4 percent, not just its lowest percentage of the season but its lowest in its previous 149 games.

Montana bounced back with a 72-65 victory at Montana State Monday night. That win made the Lady Griz 7-2 this season when coming off a loss. Four of those bounce-back wins have come in road games.

Most recently (Sacramento State): The Hornets swept Weber State and Idaho State at Sacramento last week to end a stretch of four losses in five games. But just barely.

Sac State had little trouble with Weber State on Thursday, winning 76-60. On Saturday, the Hornets raced out to a 30-13 lead on Idaho State but then went more than 11 minutes across both halves without a point. The Bengals’ 20-0 run during that stretch gave them a 33-30 lead.

Sac State still trailed 53-43 late before unleashing a 13-0 game-ending run over the final 4:58 to win 56-53.

Most recently (Northern Arizona): The Lumberjacks had won three of four going into last week, and that allowed NAU to work its way into the tournament discussion, but last week’s home losses to Idaho State and Weber State made those hopes more mathematical than realistic.

Northern Arizona fell to Idaho State 72-65 last Thursday, then lost on Saturday to Weber State 74-73 on a WSU free throw with 0.2 seconds remaining. It was Weber’s first win in its last 54 road games.

What to look for Thursday: At what tempo will Thursday’s game be played? In Sac State’s 10 Big Sky wins this season, the Hornets have averaged 91.2 points. In their eight league losses, they’ve been held to 67.0.

Montana caught Sac State at just the wrong time in the teams’ first meeting: early January as part of the Hornets’ 11-1 start to the season. Sac State did not score fewer than 80 points through those first dozen games and also went 6-0 in games decided by six points or fewer.

“Sac was on a roll early. They won a lot of close games and were playing with a lot of confidence,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “They are still playing well, but they have had to adapt to teams slowing the pace.

“But it’s hard for anybody in this league to win consistently, because the teams are so balanced.”

In the first meeting, Montana trailed 55-52 at the half and took a brief second-half lead before the Hornets steadily pulled away to win 91-81. It was a pace that the Hornets played better. Montana shot 51.5 percent but turned the ball over 20 times and visibly wore out in the second half.

“(Opponent exhaustion) is … (what) we love to see at the end of the game, when we know we did our job,” said Sac State senior guard Alle Moreno after that game. “It’s a very fulfilling feeling.”

Sac State has been held to 57 or fewer points in three of its last four games. Look for that trend to continue and for Montana to do a better job of forcing the tempo it wants.

Fun fact: In the teams’ 18 meetings at Missoula, all Lady Griz wins, the winning margin has been 20 or more points 14 times. Only once have the Hornets come within even 15 points of winning, a 57-54 UM victory in 2004-05.

What to look for Saturday: Northern Arizona, with four starters averaging in double figures, is one of the Big Sky’s top offensive teams, a fact impressed upon Montana when the Lumberjacks put up 48 second-half points on the Lady Griz in the teams’ first meeting.

NAU is also one of the Big Sky’s worst defensive teams, a fact impressed upon Montana when the Lady Griz got pretty much whatever open shot they wanted in the teams’ first meeting. Montana shot 55.9 percent in the first half in Flagstaff and 56.3 percent in the second and built a 40-point in-game lead.

But that was a different Montana team, one playing with a ton of confidence on the offensive end. The current version of the Lady Griz is one that has been struggling for weeks to regain its offensive rhythm.

Montana has shot better than 40 percent just once its last seven games to see its season shooting percentage drop to 39.9.

The Lady Griz should get plenty of open looks Saturday. Will they be able to make them this time?

Something else to look for Saturday: It will be Senior Day for Torry Hill and Jordan Sullivan. Hill has been starting at the point since the beginning of her sophomore season and has UM top-10 career rankings in 3-point field goals (192), free throw percentage (.800), assists (415) and steals (185).

Sullivan also has been starting since the beginning of her sophomore season and has not missed a game in her career. Montana’s first tournament game next week will be Sullivan’s 125th of her career, matching Sarah Ena (2007-11) for most played in program history.

Game notes: Montana is 12-1 at home this season, with its only loss coming to Temple, 61-52 on Dec. 14. … The Lady Griz have won 15 straight at Dahlberg Arena against Big Sky opponents. The last loss was to Montana State, 58-49 on Jan. 19, 2013. … Montana is 33-3 all-time against Sacramento State, though all three of those wins for the Hornets have come since 2009-10. … Montana is two victories from making it to 20 wins again. That would make it 29 times in Robin Selvig’s 36 years coaching the Lady Griz they will have won at least 20 games. … Torry Hill’s 13 points at Montana State give her 974 for her career. Look for her to become the 30th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points early in the second half of Saturday’s game. Just a hunch. … It’s an eastern Montana cold front: Jordan Sullivan, from Sidney, is averaging 6.5 points on 25 percent shooting the last eight games. Carly Selvig, from Glendive, is 4 for 26 (.154) the last three games. … Selvig has moved into a tie for fourth on the UM career list with 167 blocks. She is now even with Jodi Hinrichs (1990-95) and is just eight behind Angella “Don’t Call Me Justin” Bieber (1994-98). … Picking up the scoring slack for Sullivan: Maggie Rickman has averaged 10.0 points the last seven games on 49.2 percent shooting. Four of her seven career double-figure scoring games have come in Montana’s last seven games. … McCalle Feller is 2 for 19 from 3-point range the last six games, and I swear 80 percent of those looked like they were going in. … Montana had not reached 30 points for four consecutive halves until breaking out for 44 in the second half of Monday’s win at Montana State. … At one point Montana was a dangerous 3-point shooting team: The Lady Griz are shooting 21.2 percent from the arc the last seven games and have not made more than five in a game since Feb. 8. … Monday was the first time Montana had been out-rebounded in a game since facing Portland State on Feb. 6.

Montana Sports Information