Lady Griz Use Big Second Half to Top Bobcats


Maggie Rickman matched a career high with 14 points and Montana scored 44 second-half points on its way to a 72-65 victory over Montana State Monday night at Worthington Arena in Bozeman.

With the win, the Lady Griz (18-9, 12-6 BSC) remain in sole possession of third place in the Big Sky Conference as the league schedule enters its final week of the regular season.

Montana was coming off its worst shooting night of the season in Wednesday’s 69-49 loss at Southern Utah, and the Lady Griz shot 32.3 percent in the first half Monday to trail 29-28 at the break, but most of those offensive frustrations were erased over the final 20 minutes.

Montana shot 50 percent in the opening minutes of the second half and took the lead for good on a basket by Rickman that made it 37-35.

The lead five times reached 10 points, and Montana held off a final Montana State comeback attempt that cut UM’s lead to two in the final minute.

“We were coming off a game where it was totally ugly, but we made plenty of good plays in this game,” UM coach Robin Selvig said. “I sure liked the effort out of the kids. It was a really good win.”

The loss was the ninth in 11 games for Montana State (13-14, 8-10 BSC), which still has work to do before it can claim one of the seven spots to next week’s Big Sky Conference tournament.

Montana’s five starters scored just 19 points in Wednesday’s loss, and they were nearly as ineffective in the first half Monday, scoring 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting.

But the Lady Griz bench had them covered. Alycia Sims, McCalle Feller, Kayleigh Valley and Haley Vining scored 15 first-half points on 50 percent shooting, and that allowed Montana to stay close despite getting out rebounded 27-18 in the opening half.

“The kids who came off the bench gave us a lot of positives. We got really good minutes out of them,” Selvig said.

“Rebounding is why we were down (at the half). They kept getting second shots. But you’ve got to give them credit. They were getting after it.”

Held scoreless in the first half, Jordan Sullivan scored twice in the paint in the opening minute of the second half for what would be her only baskets of the game, but they seemed to spark her teammates to life.

Montana’s starters scored 42 of the team’s 44 second-half points on 46.4 percent shooting. Rickman scored 13 second-half points, Torry Hill 10, and Sullivan and Kellie Cole nine each.

After Ashley Brumwell gave Montana State a 35-33 lead with a 3-pointer, Montana responded with a 12-2 run that gave the Lady Griz the lead for good. Rickman and Hill both scored twice during the decisive stretch.

Montana’s final 10-point lead came when a Hill 3-pointer made it 64-54 at the 5:19 mark.

The Bobcats faced a 17-point second-half deficit in the teams’ first meeting in Missoula last month and came back to force overtime, and they nearly did it again.

Montana hit just a single field goal in the final five minutes, and that allowed MSU to steadily chip away at the lead.

Two free throws by Jasmine Hommes, who led both teams with 15 points, cut the lead to 67-64 with 1:00 remaining, and after a Montana miss, Jackie Elliott connected on one of two free throws to make it 67-65.

The Bobcats had chances to foul other players, but they opted to put Hill, Montana’s top free throw shooter (.839 entering the game), at the line with 30 seconds left.

Her two free throws were pure, making it 69-65, and after a Hommes miss, Hill was fouled again. She hit one of two with 18 seconds remaining to up the lead to five, and the Lady Griz were on their way to their sixth consecutive win at Bozeman.

Torry and Jordan both struggled in the first half. You’ve got to count on your seniors to make some plays, and they did. They came around, as did Kellie, and Maggie had another awfully good night for us,” said Selvig.

“We’re not finding a hot hand like we were earlier in the conference season. Hopefully we’re saving that up for when everybody gets hot at the same time.”

Montana held Montana State to shooting percentages in the low 30s both halves and 32.3 percent for the game, but the Bobcats were still able to take the game into the final minute because of their success at the free throw line. MSU went 15 for 18 from the line in the second half and 20 for 26 for the game.

“Somehow, someway, we’ve got to not put people at the foul line when we’ve got a lead,” Selvig said. “They weren’t shooting it very well, and they were having a hard time scoring, and we’re putting them at the line.”

Cole, who had a game-high four assists, joined Rickman with 14 points. Hill had 13 points and came within one of her career high with six steals. Carly Selvig grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

Montana will wrap up its regular season later this week with home games against Sacramento State on Thursday and Northern Arizona on Saturday.

Updated Big Sky Conference standings:

North Dakota (15-4 BSC, 20-8 overall)
Southern Utah (13-5, 19-8)
Montana (12-6, 18-9)
Eastern Washington (11-7, 15-12)
Sacramento State (10-8, 18-9)
Idaho State (9-9, 11-16)
Montana State (8-10, 13-14)
Northern Colorado (8-11, 14-14)
Northern Arizona (6-12, 9-18)
Portland State (5-13, 7-20)
Weber State (3-15, 7-20)