Lady Griz Take Care of Business, Win Road Trip Opener Against ISU


Coming off a disheartening home loss and entering the night with a slim one-game lead in the Big Sky Conference standings, the Montana women’s basketball team assumed the look of a champion Thursday night in claiming a 69-51 victory over Idaho State at Pocatello, Idaho.

The Lady Griz (18-7, 11-3 BSC) shot 51.9 percent and led for all 40 minutes after a pregame administrative technical foul handed Montana a 2-0 lead before the game’s opening jump ball.

The Lady Griz, who lost 52-51 at home to Northern Colorado on Saturday after leading by 10 points with eight minutes to play, built a 16-point first-half lead and never allowed the Bengals (11-14, 6-8 BSC) to get closer than nine in the second half.

“To get on the floor and beat a good team at their place is a good way to put a tough loss behind you. This feels a lot better than it did a couple of days ago,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, whose team limited ISU to 32.1 percent shooting.

“We did a really good job defensively. They never got anything going or put any big runs together, and we never had any long dry spells. The ladies played hard and smart.”

The win kept Montana atop the Big Sky standings and ahead of a new pursuer. Eastern Washington (16-8, 9-4 BSC) won 88-67 at home over Southern Utah Thursday to take over second place from Sacramento State (11-14, 9-5 BSC), which lost 78-76 at Northern Colorado.

North Dakota (17-9, 9-5 BSC) won 76-45 at home over Portland State Thursday to snap a two-game losing streak and move into a third-place tie with the Hornets. Those two teams meet Saturday afternoon at Grand Forks.

Before Thursday’s game even tipped off, Kellie Rubel hit a pair of free throws, the arcane punishment meted out to the home team for a non-functioning shot clock on one end of the court.

She then spent the rest of the game as the best player on the court. She was perfect from 3-point range, went 8 of 12 overall and finished with 23 points, one off her season high and the third time in four games she’s scored at least 20.

Rubel also didn’t turn the ball over a single time while playing 36 minutes and directing her team to its second-best shooting game of the season.

Kellie made those two free throws, then proceeded to have one heck of a ball game,” said Selvig. “She shot it great. No turnovers. She was feeling it a little bit and had a heck of a good night.”

All three of Montana’s seniors did. Rubel, Maggie Rickman, who would finish with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and Carly Selvig, who had the usual full points-rebounds-assists-blocks stat line, scored the team’s first 22 points to put the Lady Griz up 22-12.

Kayleigh Valley ended the seniors-only scoring, and McCalle Feller’s 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the opening half made it 27-12.

Idaho State would make its final four shots of the half to close to within 32-21 at the break, and ISU cut its deficit to nine early in the second half, but Valley, posting up on a smaller defender, converted two three-point plays to give Montana a 42-27 lead and some breathing room.

The lead, which twice reached 20 points, remained in double figures the rest of the game.

Valley finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, Feller added eight points and a career-high six assists, and Montana got what it needed from its bench to improve to 68-8 against Idaho State.

“Everybody played well,” said Selvig, who watched his team go 7 of 15 from 3-point range after it had shot 26.4 percent from the arc its previous four games. “We did a good job of being organized, and we had a lot of kids make shots.

BBQ“And our two starting guards had nine assists and zero turnovers. That’s a pretty good job taking care of the ball.”

Montana had a hard time stopping Idaho State in UM’s 77-65 victory over the Bengals at Missoula in early January. Apiphany Woods and Grace Kenyon combined for 39 points, most of them coming in the paint or at the free throw line.

It was a different storyline Thursday, as Montana turned a team that struggles from the perimeter into a group of uncomfortable jump shooters. Woods, who was averaging 17.0 points in league games, finished with a quiet 10, and Kenyon was held to just six on 2-of-10 shooting.

Woods and Kenyon scored just two points at the free throw line after getting to the line 19 times in the teams’ first meeting.

“We were trying to pack the paint and make (Idaho State) shoot the ball on the outside, which is not what they want to do,” said Selvig. “They didn’t get to the hole clean very many times, so a lot of their shots turned into bad ones.”

Anna Policicchio led Idaho State with 11 points.

Montana will face a desperate Weber State (11-14, 6-8 BSC) team Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ogden. The Wildcats, who lost 60-49 at home to Montana State Thursday, are slipping off the tournament bubble and end their regular season with three straight road games after Saturday’s home finale.

Northern Colorado (14-11, 8-6 BSC) and Northern Arizona (11-13, 7-6 BSC) trail the top four teams in the standings. Five teams, including WSU, are sitting with eight Big Sky losses. Three of those teams won’t make the eight-team Big Sky tournament.


Montana Sports Information