Lady Griz Hang On for 55-44 Win in Opener

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

The Montana women’s basketball team opened its regular season Monday night with a 55-44 victory over Montana-Western at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

The Lady Griz (1-0) raced out to a 16-2 advantage and led 34-18 at the break, but a scoring drought that lasted nearly 11 minutes allowed the Bulldogs, who were counting the game as an exhibition, to close within four in the second half before Montana made enough plays to pull out the victory.

Junior McCalle Feller scored 13 points, while redshirt senior Kellie Cole Rubel added 11 points and seven assists. Kaye Bignell scored a game-high 17 points for Montana-Western, which lost 77-31 Friday night at Weber State.

“We had them down 20 in the first half, then we went a long time without making a shot,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “Give them credit. They played hard and hung around and showed we’ve got a lot of things to work on.”

Kellie Cole Lady Griz vs Western

Kellie Cole. Photo by ©WilliamMunoz

Eight different players scored for Montana in the first half, and the Lady Griz were shooting better than 50 percent when redshirt sophomore Shanae Gilham hit a 3-pointer to put them up 34-14.

But Montana missed its final three shots of the opening half, then missed its first eight of the second half. Six of those eight misses came from 3-point range, as the Lady Griz settled for the easy look.

“We had open threes, but we didn’t have any movement, and we never went inside,” said Selvig, whose four interior players combined to score 14 points. “They were good shots, but we have to mix it up and find other ways to score. We can’t be a team that relies on (the 3-pointer).”

On the other end, the Bulldogs were making five of their first eight shots to open the second half, and what was looking like a blowout quickly turned into a tight contest.

A Bignell jumper cut the lead to 34-30 at the 14:33 mark, capping a 16-0 run for Western, and Jenna Banks had two good looks at 3-pointers that could have cut the lead to one.

Finally Gilham, who had made the team’s last basket at the 3:19 mark of the first half, drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12:25 to go to push the lead back to seven.

Shanae Gilham Lady Griz vs Western

Shanae Gilham. Photo by ©WilliamMunoz

Montana-Western three more times cut its deficit to five and twice had the ball while down just five, but Rubel scored twice inside and a Feller 3-pointer at the 2:04 mark finally pushed the lead back to double-digits at 53-41 to end the threat.

Montana shot just 22.7 percent (5 for 22) in the second half and grabbed only two offensive rebounds. The Bulldogs out-boarded the Lady Griz 25-15 in the second half and by 12 for the game.

“We just aren’t doing a very good job rebounding,” said Selvig. “We’ve got to get a lot better, and I’ve got to find some kids who want to get a rebound.”

“We have lots of improving to do, and we’ve got to get better every time out. The other side of it is you can do what we did tonight and lose, but fortunately we finally made a basket or two.”

Montana will play its first road game Friday at Pacific at 8 p.m. (MT). The Tigers are 1-1 after defeating Cal State Stanislaus 98-67 and falling 84-64 to No. 15 California over the weekend.

Montana Sports Information