North Dakota Holds on, Ends Lady Griz Winning Streak

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

In a game played in January with the feel of March, North Dakota, the preseason Big Sky Conference favorite, held off Montana, picked second in the polls, 59-52 Saturday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.

UND (10-4, 2-0 BSC) built a 34-25 halftime lead and went up 42-27 five minutes into the second half, but a poised Lady Griz team chipped away and took a 48-47 lead on a Shanae Gilham 3-pointer with 5:30 to play.

Gilham made it 50-49 with a spinning finish in the lane with just over four minutes left, but Montana (8-5, 1-1 BSC) would miss its next five shots, all from close range, and a critical front end of a one-and-one with 40 seconds left to see its six-game winning streak come to an end.

Montana matched North Dakota, one of the nation’s top rebounding teams, on the glass, turned it over 12 times and held a team averaging 75.7 points to 59 on its home floor, but it was a common bugaboo that cost the Lady Griz the game: 31.0 percent shooting.

“We did everything we needed to do, but we just couldn’t score,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, whose team has shot 40 percent just three times in 12 games this season. “Everything was fine, but we go 22 for 71. That’s a lot of shots to miss.

“Still, we had a chance to win here shooting 31 percent, and in a way that’s a pretty good thing.”

Redshirt senior Kellie Rubel, who was the best player on the floor in the second half and particularly during Montana’s rally, finished with 16 points, giving her 998 for her career. McCalle Feller finished with 10, but she had just four over the final 35 minutes.

North Dakota stuck to its usual game plan in the first half and got the ball in the paint, either by entry pass or dribble penetration, on nearly every possession. The result: UND got to the line 16 times, where it outscored Montana by nine, matching the halftime margin.

At the other end, the Lady Griz scored just two points in the paint while mostly settling for mid- and long-range jumpers. Which is fine, but on 28.6 percent shooting the result was just 25 points and the team’s second-largest halftime deficit of the season.

North Dakota scored eight of the first 10 points out of the break and went up 42-27 on a Siri Burck 3-pointer at the 14:49 mark. At that point, some teams would have hoisted a white flag and called it quits. Those teams don’t have Rubel.

The point guard, who played a game-high 37 minutes, scored six points and added an assist as Montana reeled off 10 straight points in just three minutes to close within five, 42-37.

The Lady Griz completed the comeback when Hannah Doran drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 45-45 with 6:10 left.

Mia Loyd, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds, put North Dakota back on top. Gilham answered with a 3-pointer to put Montana up 48-47, its first lead in nearly 27 minutes of game time.

After Gilham made it 50-49 with 4:04 left, Rubel, Feller, Doran and Kayleigh Valley all had shots at or near the rim to keep it tight. All missed, which allowed North Dakota to retake the lead and build a three-point advantage.

“We really shot poor right around the basket today,” said Selvig. “They are a big, physical team, and there was some pressure on some of those.

“We did a lot of good things, but if you don’t get two points for it, it’s frustrating.”

BBQAfter an ill-advised 3-point attempt by Loyd with one minute to go — she hasn’t made a three all season — Maggie Rickman got to the line with 40 seconds left after collecting an offensiverebound.

With Montana trailing 53-50, Rickman missed the front end, and North Dakota went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line over the final 23 seconds to defeat the Lady Griz at home for the third straight time. Montana went just 4 for 10 from the line for the game.

“We had a chance at the end to go back and forth, but we missed those, and we ended up in the position where we had to foul, and they made their free throws,” said Selvig.

“In a game like this, there are two or three shots that make the difference. They defended us well, but we throw up 31 percent.”

Rubel went 8 for 20 and had five assists and five steals. Feller, after opening with a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes, finished 4 for 14, and North Dakota shut down Montana’s other three starters, who went 3 for 21. Rickman and Carly Selvig both had four points. Kayleigh Valley was held scoreless.

Gilham and Doran combined for 13 points off the bench.

But still: Montana held the Big Sky’s top shooting team — North Dakota was hitting 45.4 percent of its shots entering the game — to 37.3 percent and to just 25 second-half points.

And though UND has been outrebounding its opponent by more than 10 per game this season, Montana matched it 45-45. Only Colorado and Minnesota this season had previously matched or beaten North Dakota on the glass.

“We were even with them on the boards, which is a win with them, and we would have had them in the low 50s at their place if we didn’t have to foul late,” said Selvig. “We worked our butts off to do it, but we did not reward ourselves with a win.”

Leah Szabla matched Loyd with a team-high 13 points for North Dakota. Emily Evers had nine points and 12 rebounds.

In other Big Sky games Saturday afternoon, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona both had convincing wins at home. The Bears knocked off Montana State 80-61, the surprising Lumberjacks crushed Portland State 94-46.

Eastern Washington picked up an impressive road win at Idaho State, 88-73. Idaho won at Weber State 67-60.

Southern Utah hosts Sacramento State Saturday night.

Montana will host Weber State (5-8, 0-2 BSC) Thursday at 7 p.m. and Idaho State (6-7, 1-1 BSC) Saturday at 2 p.m.

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Montana Sports Information