Kellie Cole Rubel Earns Fourth Career Player of the Week Honor

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

The Montana women’s basketball team played only once, but redshirt senior Kellie Rubel’s performance in the Lady Griz’ 69-55 victory at Portland Sunday afternoon earned the point guard her first Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honor of the season and fourth of her career.

Rubel, then Cole, was recognized three times last season.

With Montana searching for its first signature win of the season, Rubel scored 24 points and added six rebounds and five assists against the Pilots, who had defeated Portland State 91-63 two days earlier.

Rubel delivered from the 3-point line to put Montana ahead early, and she came through at the free throw line late to help the Lady Griz even their record at 4-4.

Portland started the game in a zone defense — not a bad strategy against a team that was shooting 26.7 percent from the arc through its first seven games — and Montana took advantage of its open looks.

Kellie Cole RubelRubel hit a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the key in the opening minutes. Kayleigh Valley and McCalle Feller connected as well, and Rubel’s third triple put Montana up 15-6 less than six minutes in. The Lady Griz started the game 5 for 6 from 3-pointrange.

“We got off to a really good start, and I think that helped our confidence the rest of the game,” said Rubel. “It was nice to be able to make some shots. It just makes everything more fun.”

Montana went up 17-6 on a Rubel lay-in off a fast break, giving her 11 points in the first seven minutes. The Lady Griz still led 19-14 — on another Rubel lay-in, giving her 13 — when Portland was given a lifeline: Rubel picked up her third foul and sat the final 9:26 of the first half.

The Pilots took advantage of Rubel’s absence and closed the half on an 18-8 run to take a 32-27 lead into the break. The Lady Griz missed their final 13 shots and were held without a field goal the final seven minutes. Rubel in the first half: 5 of 7. Her teammates: 5 for 29.

Rubel’s return wasn’t the only thing that sparked Montana’s second-half resurgence. Carly Selvig and Maggie Rickman blocked eight second-half shots, and the Pilots went just 6 for 30 (.200) the final 20 minutes. And the Lady Griz had a 26-13 rebounding advantage in the second half.

Montana took a 44-42 lead on a Selvig basket, and Rachel Staudacher scored seven straight points to help extend the lead to double digits, where it would remain the final seven minutes.

Rubel did not make a basket in the second half, but she went 11 for 12 from the line to give her a season-high 24 points, the 11th 20-point scoring game of her career. She played all 20 minutes of the second half, meaning Montana outscored Portland 61-37 with Rubel on the floor.

With Rubel handling the ball at the top of the key in the second half and Montana using a single on-ball screener to free her up, the play ended up being the equivalent of football’s victory formation. Portland had no way of stopping it, outside of continuing to foul Rubel on her way to the basket.

“We were setting a lot of on-ball screens, and they were trying to hedge and recover. I just kept my dribble alive and ended up going around both of (the defenders),” said Rubel, who had career highs in both free throws made (11) and attempted (12).

The win was the first true road victory of the season for Montana, which also defeated Charlotte at the Cancun Challenge, to go along with a pair of home victories over NAIA opponents.

Montana will play at Seattle Wednesday afternoon. After a pair of games at the Lady Griz Classic later this week, Montana will open Big Sky Conference play with the league’s most daunting road trip: Northern Colorado and North Dakota.

The long travel is part of it. More than that is the teams. North Dakota, picked atop the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ poll, has a league-high seven wins. Northern Colorado has six.

It’s the type of trip that could set the tone for the rest of January and February.

“Sunday was a really good game to boost our confidence,” Rubel said. “We know we can do it now. It will help out a lot on our first conference games. Those are hard places to play at.

Montana Sports Information