Princeton Too Much for Montana, Wins 80-55


Annie Tarakchian had 23 points and 14 rebounds and Princeton was in control from start to finish in an 80-55 victory over Montana Friday evening on the second day of the Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The Tigers, among the nation’s top mid-major teams, remained undefeated with the victory and improved to 6-0, with an average margin of victory of more than 16 points. The Lady Griz dropped to 2-2.

Princeton, an emerging juggernaut under eighth-year coach Courtney Banghart, will likely be the best team Montana faces during the regular season, and how the Lady Griz stacked up against the Tigers was going to be an early indicator of what lies ahead.

Forty minutes later, one team looked ready for March, the other in need of some more seasoning.

Princeton jumped out to a 10-2 advantage, led 43-22 at the break and was better in every area of the game, from offensive execution to rebounding to the defensive end.

“They are really good and a lot better than we are right now. They looked like a team in postseason form,” said UM coach Robin Selvig.

“They were a lot better than us tonight, which was disappointing, because I thought we could play with them. We’re just not ready to do that quite yet.”

Princeton, which built a 17-point halftime lead in its victory over Wake Forest Thursday night, did not shoot lights out to go up early. Instead the Tigers just had little trouble finding open shots against Montana, whether they came inside or outside.

Most of it was Princeton’s spacing, ball movement and ability and patience to find the open shooter. Part of it was the Lady Griz’ defense, which allowed the Tigers to go 7 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half, hardly any of the looks contested.

“We didn’t execute our defensive game plan very well. We were doubling down (on post players) when we weren’t supposed to be, and they made us pay for every mistake,” said Selvig.

On the other end, Montana, which had a hard time finding open looks, struggled to 25 percent shooting in the first half. The Lady Griz also turned the ball over nine times, which Princeton converted into 15 points. The result was a 43-22 deficit at the break.

“We knew we were going to have a hard time defending them, because their balance inside and out really challenges you, so we were going to have to have a hot-shooting night to stay with them,” said Selvig.

“We didn’t have much margin for error, and we didn’t make shots when we had them, so we dug a big hole in the first half.”

Kellie Rubel scored eight straight points for Montana early in the second half, and that allowed the Lady Griz to pull to within 13, 52-39, with 12 minutes to go, but a 9-0 run by Princeton midway through the half turned a 15-point game into a 24-point difference, and that all but ended it.

Blake Dietrick went 4 for 7 from 3-point range and scored 15 points, and Michelle Miller added 10 for the Tigers, who shot 44.3 percent and out-rebounded the Lady Griz 45-30.

Montana got out-rebounded 22-11 in the second half and grabbed just a single offensive board over the final 20 minutes despite missing 18 shots. It was the second time in four games this season the Lady Griz have been out-rebounded by a dozen or more.

“They are big and strong, and beat us bad on the boards,” Selvig said. “I didn’t think they were going to have a big edge on us athletically, but they did.

“There would be a couple of them and a couple of us going for a rebound, and they always got it. I mean they always got it.”

Rubel scored 16 points, her fourth time in four games with 10 or more points, and Kayleigh Valley added a career-high 17. Valley made just two baskets but went a perfect 13 for 13 from the foul line. No one else scored more than six points.

Montana finished with 15 turnovers and had just six assists on 16 field goals.

The Lady Griz will face Wake Forest on Saturday at 4 p.m. (MT) in their final Cancun Challenge game. The Demon Deacons (4-1) play UNC Charlotte Friday night.