Lady Griz Dismantle the Lumberjacks 69-42

By JOEL CARLSON

Montana opened its road trip to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah with a 69-42 victory over the Lumberjacks Thursday night at Flagstaff, Ariz. The Lady Griz built a 19-point halftime lead and shot 48.1 percent while limiting NAU to 25.4 percent shooting.

The victory was the 10th in 11 games for Montana (12-5, 5-1 BSC), which remained even with Big Sky Conference leader Sacramento State (8-10, 6-1 BSC) in the loss column. The Hornets had no trouble with Idaho State (8-10, 3-4 BSC) Thursday, winning 84-53 at Sacramento.

“This was one of those you don’t anticipate,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, whose team had its second-best shooting game of the season. “It’s one of those games you think you’re going to be in a dogfight all night, and you end up getting ahead. We never were in jeopardy.”

The game was slow to get going in the opening five minutes. Then Kellie Rubel hit her second 3-pointer of the game to put Montana up 8-4, and the Lady Griz never looked back.

Rubel hit a pair of threes, as did Shanae Gilham, and Montana connected on six of its first seven from the arc to build a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes in.

The Lady Griz went 7 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half, one less basket than the Lumberjacks’ entire collection of field goals. NAU (6-11, 2-4 BSC) went 8 for 34 (.235) in the opening half and trailed 37-18 at the break.

“We shot lights out in the first half, and that took the wind out of their sails,” said Selvig. “And then they never really got anything going. A lot of that was our defense, but they missed a lot of shots, too.”

Catelyn Preston hit a three and finished a fast-break layup in the opening 90 seconds of the second half to make it 37-23, but Rubel answered with a three and a jumper to extend the lead back to 19.

Montana, which built a 40-point, second-half lead at Northern Arizona in last year’s road win, went up by 35 points, 65-30, on a pair of free throws by Rachel Staudacher with 4:12 left.

BBQ“It’s fun to be talking about the shots we made and not that we had to hold them to 42 to beat them,” said Selvig. “We’ve had games like that and only been up four athalf.

“I would have been thrilled with a one-point win, so I’ve got no complaints. You just don’t anticipate that a game is going to go like this, especially on the road.”

Rubel finished with 15 points, McCalle Feller with 12, and Montana got a 36-point boost from its bench, with all six reserves adding at least four points. Only one starter played more than 25 minutes, an ideal outcome from the front end of a two-game road trip.

“Everybody did a good job, and we didn’t have to play anybody to death. It went just how you’d like it to go,” said Selvig.

The Lady Griz were +15 on the boards, the sixth time in 11 games they’ve been at least +10, and Montana did a good job shutting down Northern Arizona’s big three of Erikka Banks, Raven Anderson and Brittani Lusain. The three players scored 26 quiet points on 10-of-31 shooting.

It was the third time in four games Montana’s opponent has shot below 30 percent, and it dropped UM’s season field goal percentage defense to 33.2 percent.

Montana will wrap up its road trip at Southern Utah Saturday night. The Thunderbirds (11-5, 4-2 BSC) defeated Montana State (7-10, 1-5 BSC) at Cedar City on Thursday 74-69.

Southern Utah is one of three teams one game behind Montana in the standings with 4-2 league marks. North Dakota (12-6, 4-2 BSC) won Thursday at home, 68-62 over Idaho, and Eastern Washington (11-6, 4-2 BSC) lost 64-56 at Northern Colorado (9-8, 3-3 BSC).

In the other Big Sky game Thursday, Weber State (8-10, 3-4 BSC) won its third straight, 60-51 at Portland State (3-15, 1-6 BSC).

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