Lady Griz Open Cancun Challenge with 67-58 Victory


Maybe it was playing on Thanksgiving. Or in Mexico. Or maybe it was the return of fifth-year senior Carly Selvig.

Whatever the reason, the Montana women’s basketball team played its best game of the season in defeating Charlotte 67-58 Thursday evening on the opening day of the Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The Lady Griz (2-1) never trailed, shot 46.9 percent and outrebounded the 49ers (1-3) by 13, the first time Montana has out-boarded an opponent this season.

Selvig, who wore a knee brace but looked neither timid nor rusty in her first game back since suffering a knee injury in the WNIT last March, got the start Thursday and seemed to give Montana a confidence it did not display against either Montana-Western or Pacific.

She scored five of Montana’s first 10 points and finished with 13 points to match her career high. She went 6 for 10 from the field and added five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 24 encouraging minutes.

Selvig was one of four starters to finish in double figures. Redshirt senior point guard Kellie Rubel scored a game-high 17 points and dished a team-high four assists. Junior shooting guard McCalle Feller scored 14 points, all in the second half, and senior forward Maggie Rickman added 12 points.

Montana’s fifth starter, sophomore forward Kayleigh Valley, nearly gave the Lady Griz five double-digit scorers. She finished with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Selvig scored on Montana’s first possession to put the Lady Griz ahead 2-0, and she hit a 3-pointer late in the shot clock, just the fourth triple of her career, to put Montana up 10-4 in the early going.

The Lady Griz built a pair of nine-point leads in the opening half, but an 11-2 run for Charlotte evened the score at 26-26. Montana’s three seniors — Selvig, Rubel and Rickman — scored all eight of the team’s points over the final 1:48 to give the Lady Griz a 34-27 halftime lead.

In Montana’s first two games this season, a slow start to the second half proved costly. Against Montana-Western it made what should have been a lopsided win a little too close for comfort. Against Pacific it was part of what allowed the Tigers go on a 26-1 run to blow last Friday’s game open.

Feller’s hot hand ensured there would be no three-peat. She went 5 for 6 in the second half, 4 of 5 from 3-point range, to help Montana build a pair of 13-point leads.

She also hit what maybe was the biggest shot of the game.

After UNCC’s Lefty Webster hit a 3-pointer to bring the 49ers within six, 51-45, at the 6:42 mark, Feller answered with her own three to bump the lead to 54-45.

She added the dagger with just under four minutes left. After Charlotte pulled to within 56-49, Feller drilled her fourth 3-pointer of the second half to push the lead to 10, and Montana led by nine or more the rest of the game.

After getting outrebounded by 12 by Western and six by Pacific, Montana dominated the boards against Charlotte. The Lady Griz had a 25-9 advantage in the first half, allowing just two second-chance points, and had a 41-28 edge for the game.

And after shooting well below 40 percent in their first two games, the Lady Griz shot 46.9 percent Thursday, including a 50-percent effort in the second half. Montana’s starters shot 22 for 37 (.595) for the game and scored all but two of the team’s points.

The only negative statistic — outside of the bench’s 1-for-12 shooting performance — was the team’s 21 turnovers, a season high. Rubel and Feller both had six, and Charlotte turned Montana’s turnovers into 21 points.

Webster, Charlotte’s leading scorer this season, finished with a team-high 13 points, but she totaled them on 4-of-14 shooting. Ciara Gregory added 10 points off the bench for the 49ers, who shot 36.2 percent.

Montana will play Princeton at 4 p.m. (MT) on Friday and Wake Forest at 4 p.m. (MT) on Saturday. The Tigers and Demon Deacons, both 4-0 entering the tournament, played Thursday night’s late game.