Lady Griz Host Annual Rival Cowgirls Thursday

The Montana women’s basketball team will play just its second home game of the season Thursday when it hosts Wyoming at Dahlberg Arena. The Lady Griz and Cowgirls will tip off at 7 p.m.

Montana will enter the game with a record of 2-3. The Lady Griz are coming off a 1-2 finish at last week’s Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Resort at Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Wyoming is 3-2. The Cowgirls played at a Thanksgiving tournament at St. Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., last week and went 1-1, with an 84-63 loss to Iowa State and 67-53 victory over Howard.

Coverage: Thursday’s game can be heard locally on KGVO 1290 AM and 101.5 FM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. GoGriz.com will offer live video coverage and live stats.

Upcoming: Montana will host Carroll Sunday at 2 p.m. Wyoming will play at Montana State Saturday evening.

Montana-Wyoming Game Notes

* Wyoming will be trying to do something Thursday only one other team has done since the early 80s: win on three straight trips to Dahlberg Arena. The Cowgirls won 73-51 over the Lady Griz at Dahlberg Arena in 2010-11 and 58-56 in 2012-13.

Oregon State is the only team that has won three straight games at Dahlberg Arena since Robin Selvig became coach in 1978-79. The Beavers won 75-56 in Selvig’s first season and twice in 1980-81: 77-69 in a Northwest Women’s Basketball League game and 72-54 in the AIAW Region IX tournament.

Montana defeated Oregon State 56-47 at Dahlberg Arena in the 1984 NCAA tournament to end OSU’s streak at three. In recent years Northern Colorado, Gonzaga, Portland State, Montana State and Eastern Washington have all won two straight at Missoula but were unable to pull out a third win.

Robin SelvigWyoming won 58-56 in December 2012. Kenzie De Boer scored 29 points, and the Lady Griz committed just six turnovers, but Katie Baker was held scoreless, and De Boer missed a shot at the buzzer that could have sent the game intoovertime.

The Cowgirls’ 22-point win in December 2010 was probably one of the most lopsided losses for the Lady Griz ever at home. The Cowgirls raced out to a 27-7 lead, went 11 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 53.8 percent overall.

* Thursday will be a tale of two different teams. Wyoming returned four starters from last year’s 20-win team, including three of that team’s four double-digit scorers: Kayla Woodward, Marquelle Dent and Kaitlyn Mileto.

Woodward, a senior forward, is averaging 15.2 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds per game this season, while Dent is averaging a team-leading 18.2 points.

Montana returned three starters, but that is a deceptive claim. Redshirt senior Kellie Rubel is in her first year starting at point guard, and redshirt senior forward Carly Selvig, who tore an ACL last March in the first round of the WNIT, made her season debut last Thursday against Charlotte and will be playing limited minutes for the foreseeable future.

Shooting guard McCalle Feller is in her first year as a starter, as is Kayleigh Valley, who starts at the three.

Redshirt junior Haley Vining, the team’s backup point guard, is returning from knee surgery, as is redshirt sophomore guard Shanae Gilham, who will also be on limited minutes, likely for the entire season.

It’s why coach Robin Selvig believes his 2014-15 team may have more room to grow from November to March than any Lady Griz team in recent memory.

“We’ve got all these kids working their way back in, and that’s why I think we can be so much better later in the season. We’ve got a ton of room to grow,” he said.

“I wouldn’t call us a young team, but we’re not that experienced either with the positions and roles everyone is playing. It’s a matter of experience and getting comfortable with what we’re doing. That will come with time. It doesn’t happen in just a few games, so right now it’s games that we need.

“We’ve played real good people our last four games, and we’ve showed glimpses of being a really good team, but we haven’t consistently played a whole game that way.”

* Anomaly or the start of a big senior season? Through the team’s first four games, senior forward Maggie Rickman, the team’s third returning starter, along with Rubel and Selvig, totaled 24 points. Her scoring average was right in line with the 6.3 points she averaged on last year’s 23-win team.

In Saturday’s 73-60 loss to Wake Forest, a game that had a two-point margin with five minutes left, Rickman scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting, a career-high number of attempts by six.

Rickman was a threat from all over. She scored 12 of her points in the paint, and she went 2 for 3 from 3-point range.

Her previous career high had been the 19 points she scored in last season’s 87-76 home victory over Sacramento State.

* Montana leads the all-time series with Wyoming 9-7 (6-2 at Missoula), though the Cowgirls have won four of the last five meetings. Those wins have come by an average of 17 points per game.

Wyoming won last year’s matchup at Laramie 79-65. Montana led 38-34 early in the second half, but an 18-2 run for the Cowgirls blew the game open.

* Wyoming’s Joe Legerski is one of the few coaches who has gone up against Robin Selvig 10 or more times and has a winning record against the Lady Griz. Wyoming is 6-5 against Montana since Legerski’s hiring prior to the 2003-04 season.

Legerski would have an even better record against Montana if his time as an assistent at Utah (1992-2003) was included. Those Ute teams went 7-4 against the Lady Griz.

* After tearing her ACL last March against Washington State in the opening round of the WNIT, Carly Selvig spent eight-plus months rehabbing, and the process continues. But she’s back on the court.

She made her season debut on Thanksgiving against Charlotte and made an immediate impact in Montana’s 67-58 victory. Starting the game, she scored five of the Lady Griz’ first 10 points and finished with 13 points to match a career high, and added five rebounds and a pair of blocks in 24 minutes.

She was less effective against Princeton — two points on 1-of-4 shooting and two rebounds in 17 minutes — and Wake Forest — two points on 1-of-3 shooting and five rebounds — but she was back.

“She was great that first game. Way more than we could have hoped for. She made shots, which was huge. We’re a different team with her,” said Selvig.

“It was a lift, but it’s not like she can go 100 percent. She can still only go four- or five-minute stretches.”

* Montana is shooting 37.8 percent for the season, lower than a coach would want it to be. Of greater concern is the team’s 80 turnovers. A team that usually averages around 11 or 12 has had 15 or more four times in five games.

“I think we’re capable of shooting the ball better and we need to find a night when more than one kid or two are making shots, but offensive execution is the deal,” said Selvig. “We’ve got to get much cleaner and crisper. It hasn’t been horrible, but it’s not where you’d want it come January.”

* Thursday’s game will be a good measuring stick. Idaho, picked one spot behind second-place Montana in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ poll with two first-place votes, same as the Lady Griz, went to Laramie and defeated Wyoming on Nov. 25, 77-66.

The Cowgirls had four double-digit scorers but shot just 30.3 percent and had only two bench points.

But Idaho, like Wyoming, should be farther along at this point than Montana. The Vandals had four returning starters.

* Selvig’s scouting report on the Cowgirls: “They’ve got tons of motion in their offense, and they run a lot of different things. They are patient and balanced and do a good job of getting their scorers shots.

“And they are always tough defensively. They play hard-nosed man defense. It’s hard to get anything easy on them.”

Three-dot notes: Kellie Rubel had scored 10 or more points in Montana’s first four games on 51.2 percent shooting. Wake Forest limited her to five shots and five points and forced her into six turnovers. … At 894 career points, Rubel should join Montana’s 1,000-point club by mid-January. … With 182 career blocks, Carly Selvig ranks third in Lady Griz history. Hollie Tyler (2001-05) ranks first with 297, Lisa McLeod (1985-89) ranks second with 237. … Redshirt junior guard Hannah Doran quietly put together a 10-point, 5-rebound game against Wake Forest on Saturday in 20 minutes of work. … Haley Vining is averaging 7.8 minutes backing up Rubel at the point. … Junior guard McCalle Feller went 4 for 7 from 3-point range in Montana’s tournament-opening win over Charlotte at the Cancun Challenge. Her hot hand did not carry over to the next two games. Feller went 2 for 15 against Princeton and Wake Forest. … Feller leads the team in rebounding at 4.2 per game. … Redshirt sophomore Shanae Gilham is 6 for 22 (.273) this season from 3-point range. She shot 43.9 percent in 2012-13, her true freshman season. … Sophomore Alycia Sims, a 6-3 forward, has just eight points through five games and has yet to get to the free throw line. … Sophomore forward Kayleigh Valley, on the other hand, has added a new physicality to her game this year. She has been to the line 31 times this season, making 28 for 90.3 percent, including a 13-for-13 performance Friday against Princeton. Valley attempted 45 free throws all of last season. … Princeton, which led Montana 43-22 at the half last Friday, might be the best team the Lady Griz face all season. The Tigers are 7-0 and have won six of those games by 16 or more points. … Among Montana’s other nonconference opponents, Pacific is 4-2, Charlotte is 1-5 and Wake Forest is 6-1. … Montana has been outrebounded in four of five games this season and is -5.4/g for the season.

Around the Big Sky Conference: For anyone who thought North Dakota was a one-year wonder, think again. UND is 6-1 and has won six straight since opening the season with a 68-59 loss at Colorado in the preseason WNIT. … Minnesota, also 6-1, pays a visit to North Dakota on Dec. 10, which should sell out the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND follows that up with a trip to Clemson. … Northern Colorado is 5-1 and looks like the Big Sky’s other team to beat through early December. The Bears’ only loss came on the road at No. 15 Nebraska on Sunday, 63-56. The Bears fell behind 22-2 in the opening 10 minutes but trailed just 38-35 at the half and held a pair of second-half leads before the Cornhuskers pulled away late. … UNC bounced back with a 76-35 trouncing of Air Force on Tuesday night. … Montana opens its Big Sky schedule in early January with a road trip to Northern Colorado and North Dakota. … Southern Utah (3-0), Weber State (4-3), Idaho (3-2) and Eastern Washington (3-2) are all over .500. … Portland State is the Big Sky’s lone winless team at 0-5, but the Vikings did go on the road to Oregon and fall by a 63-56 score.

Montana Sports Information