Valley Named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week

By JOEL CARLSON

Montana sophomore forward Kayleigh Valley, who averaged 18.7 points on 57.6 percent shooting in three wins last week, was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week Monday.

Montana picked up an overtime victory at Seattle on Wednesday, then returned home and won the Lady Griz Classic last weekend with victories over Utah Valley and Austin Peay.

It was the first career player of the week award for Valley and the second for a Lady Griz in as many weeks. Redshirt senior Kellie Rubel, who could have made it two straight after totaling 34 points and 23 assists in Montana’s three wins, was recognized last week for the fourth time in her career.

The Lady Griz opened their week with a 70-64 overtime victory at Seattle on Wednesday. Valley scored 16 points, with six coming in overtime, as Montana finished off a road sweep that began the previous Sunday at Portland with a 69-55 victory.

8149578Montana won the Lady Griz Classic for the 31st time in 34 tournaments with a 68-44 victory over Utah Valley on Friday and an 83-62 victory over Austin Peay in Saturday’s championshipgame.

Valley scored 17 points in 18 minutes against the Wolverines and finished with 23 points against the Lady Govs to earn tournament MVP honors.

Last week’s victories gave Montana five straight wins as it headed into Christmas break. Valley is averaging 16.2 points on 53.7 percent shooting and 4.8 rebounds during the streak.

After scoring nine or fewer points in five of Montana’s first six games — which resulted in a 2-4 start to the season — Valley has gone 12, 13, 16, 17 and 23 during the team’s five-game winning streak.

“I guess I’m just getting more used to the speed and style of play at the college level,” said Valley, who averaged 4.4 points on 38.6 percent shooting last year as a true freshman while playing in all 34 games.

Valley’s emergence in her second year hasn’t been a surprise. She averaged nearly 10 points during Montana’s five postseason games last spring and was a big reason the Lady Griz advanced to the Big Sky Conference tournament championship game.

She scored 15 points against Washington State in the first round of the WNIT, 10 in Montana’s three-point loss to San Diego in the second round.

“Kayleigh had a good freshman year and played particularly well toward the end, so I think she just picked up from there,” said UM coach Robin Selvig.

“She’s another year older and more experienced, and she’s getting a few more minutes. You want to see your players keep getting better, and she is.”

After spelling Maggie Rickman at the three last year and averaging 14.1 minutes, Valley is getting time at the three and the four this season, which fits her inside-and-out versatility, and playing more than 27 minutes per game.

At 33.3 percent, she is one of the better 3-point shooters on the team — what she lacks in volume (21 attempts from the arc) she makes up for in percentage — and Valley with the ball in the paint is something Big Sky Conference coaches will have to game-plan to avoid.

With her size, strength and aggression, she is either going to score or get fouled. Choose the latter, and Valley is an 87.3 percent shooter at the line this season.

“I like (the way they’re using me) a lot,” said Valley, who went 4 for 8 from 3-point range in two Lady Griz Classic games and got to the line 13 times.

“Last year I didn’t play the four at all. I like playing down low and also having the ability to go out and play on the perimeter. Playing both (the three and four) gives me quite a bit of freedom to do that.”

Montana’s five-game winning streak has come at just the right time. The Lady Griz (7-4) open their Big Sky Conference schedule on Jan. 1 at Northern Colorado, then continue on for a Jan. 3 rematch at North Dakota, the team that defeated Montana in last year’s Big Sky tournament championship game.

“Compared to a couple of weeks ago, I think we’re jelling better as a team,” Valley said. “Being able to win five straight games heading into conference will really help our confidence.”

Montana Sports Information