Lady Griz Face Pilots Sunday in Portland

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

The Montana women’s basketball team will embark upon its final nonconference road trip this week when the Lady Griz travel to the Pacific Northwest for a pair of games. Montana will open the road trip with a game at Portland on Sunday at 3 p.m. (MT) at UP’s Chiles Center.

Portland hosts Portland State Friday night before hosting Montana on Sunday.

Coverage: Sunday’s game will air locally on KMPT 930 AM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. PortlandPilots.com will offer both live video and live stats.

Where they stand: Montana is 3-4 after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 64-34 home-court victory over Carroll Sunday afternoon. The Lady Griz had previously dropped games to Princeton, Wake Forest and Wyoming.

Portland is 1-6, courtesy of a strong nonconference schedule that included Pac-12 matchups against Oregon State, Oregon and Washington, the second and third of those coming last week at home. The Pilots’ lone win this season was a 58-50 victory over Utah at Reno, Nev.

2014-12-12_0908Upcoming: Montana will stay on the road and face Seattle (2-5) on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (MT). The Redhawks host San Diego and San Francisco this weekend before playing the Lady Griz onWednesday.

Montana will have just one day off before hosting the Lady Griz Classic presented by Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown next Friday and Saturday. The tournament features Utah Valley, Austin Peay and Saint Louis. Montana will play at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Montana-Portland game notes

* Montana and Portland will be meeting for the 23rd time Sunday and for the 18th time in the last 19 years. But what linked the programs’ first 22 games — Robin Selvig on the Lady Griz bench, Jim Sollars on the Pilot bench — came to an end when Sollars retired at the end of last season after 28 years at UP.

Sollars was replaced in April by Cheryl Sorenson, a Portland native who was on Sollars’ staff the last three years. And she brings her own connection to Selvig and the Lady Griz.

Sorenson, who played at Washington, was an assistant for Wendy Schuller at Eastern Washington for four years, from 2007-08 to 2010-11. In Sorenson’s first year at Cheney, the Eagles went 1-15 in league games. Two years later they won the regular-season championship.

Montana went 6-2 against Eastern Washington while Sorenson was an assistant.

“It will be different not seeing Jim, but it’s not like we’re going to be unknowns to each other,” said Selvig. “They have most of their players back from last year when they had a really good team, and it was an assistant of his they hired, and she had been at Eastern.”

* Portland returned four starters from last year’s team that went 14-16 and finished sixth in the West Coast Conference at 7-11, but that could have been five. Redshirt senior Cassandra Brown led the Pilots in scoring last season at 14.1 points per game while coming off the bench.

Brown is starting this season and averaging a team-leading 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds.

* Portland was picked seventh out of 10 teams in this year’s WCC preseason coaches’ poll. Gonzaga (7), BYU (2) and San Diego (1) topped the poll and each received first-place votes (in parenthesis).

Senior guard Jasmine Wooton, who is averaging 8.8 points and 4.0 rebounds, was picked to the 10-player preseason All-WCC team.

* Portland opened its season with an 87-65 loss at Oregon State, a team now 7-0 and ranked No. 14 in the nation. In their most recent game, on Sunday, the Pilots lost 80-45 to 7-1 Washington at the Chiles Center.

It’s a schedule that skews a team’s season statistics. Portland is getting outscored by nearly 16 points and outrebounded by seven per game. Both of the Pilots games this week against Big Sky Conference teams will be more competitive.

* Montana leads the all-time series against Portland 14-8 and is 6-5 against the Pilots at the Chiles Center. Portland won the last two meetings on its home floor, 66-58 in 2009-10 and 55-46 in 2011-12.

Montana won last year’s game at Missoula 68-61 to snap a three-game losing streak to the Pilots. The victory gave Selvig his 800th win at Montana.

* Second-year Lady Griz assistant coach Sonya Rogers is 5-0 against Portland. She went 4-0 as a player from 2005-06 to 2008-09 and was in her first year on staff for last year’s win.

Her first game against Portland, on Jan. 2, 2006, was one she’ll long remember. She went 4 for 6 from 3-point range and scored all 15 of her points in the second half and overtime as Montana rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to win 68-65 at the Chiles Center.

It was a then-career high for the freshman, who would go on to score 1,320 points for her career, a total that ranks No. 11 in Lady Griz history.

* So, was Sunday’s 30-point blowout of Carroll an emphatic end to Montana’s losing streak, or did the Lady Griz just look good against an overmatched NAIA team? Empirical evidence would point to the former.

Carroll lost 59-49 at Montana State in early November and was in a tight game at Boise State in late November before falling 58-45.

There was nothing tight about Sunday’s game. Montana held the Fighting Saints to two first-half baskets and seven first-half points on its way to a 64-34 victory. Had the Lady Griz shot better, the game could have gotten even more out of hand.

“We were coming off a tough loss (at home to Wyoming), and you hope you respond by getting after it,” said Selvig. “That’s what we did. We played pretty well and did a real nice job defensively. It allowed us to go into finals week on a positive note.”

* Kayleigh Valley, streaker: The sophomore forward went 4 for 4 from the line against Carroll to up her free throw streak to 23 consecutive makes. It’s the longest streak anyone around these parts can recall since Mandy Morales made 39 straight during the 2006-07 season.

Valley made her final two free throw attempts against Charlotte, went 13 for 13 from the line against Princeton, 2 for 2 against both Wake Forest and Wyoming and 4 for 4 on Sunday.

She is 34 for 37 (.919) for the season and an 85.4 percent shooter for her young career. The program record holder for career free throw percentage is Johanna Closson at 84.7 percent.

Montana three-dot notes: After turning the ball over 16 times in three games at the Cancun Challenge, Kellie Rubel is back to her normal, sure-handed self. She had six assists and just two turnovers the last two games. … Rubel’s three blocks against Carroll were a career high. She also had two against Wyoming. Five blocks in two games for a point guard is probably some kind of program record. … After scoring 13 points in her season debut against Charlotte, Carly Selvig has totaled just five points the last four games. … Selvig had seven blocks on Montana’s recent two-game home stand and the team had 20, with nine against Wyoming and 11 against Carroll, four off the program record of 15 set against Montana-Western in 2011-12. … Maggie Rickman has recorded three straight double-figure scoring games for the first time in her career. She shot 50 percent in those three games. … Hannah Doran (2 for 15), McCalle Feller (10 for 40) and Shanae Gilham (7 for 28) are shooting 22.9 percent from the 3-point line this season. … Gilham is due for a 5-for-7 game. Look for it at next week’s Lady Griz Classic. … Doran grabbed a career-high eight rebounds against Carroll. … Haley Vining collected her second career block when she got her hand on Bailey Snelling’s 3-point attempt right before the first-half buzzer Sunday. … Feller’s four assists against Carroll matched her career high. … Alycia Sims, all 6-foot-3 of her, has yet to get to the free throw line this season in 128 minutes. … Mekayla Isaak’s eight points Sunday were a career high. … Montana went 8 for 35 (.229) from 3-point range on its two-game home stand. … From closer in and without defenders getting in the way, Montana is killing it. The Lady Griz are shooting 76.0 percent from the free throw line to rank 24th in the nation. … Montana is 28th in the nation in blocks at 5.4/game. … The Lady Griz have shot 81 percent or better from the line in five of seven games. The other two: 7 for 13 (.538) at Pacific and 7 for 14 (.500) against Wake Forest. … After having more turnovers than assists in each of its first five games, Montana went 9:7 against Wyoming and 15:11 against Carroll, which is more like it. … Montana’s highest scoring half of the season is still just 34 points.

 

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