35th Lady Griz Holiday Classic This Weekend


The Montana women’s basketball program will host the 35th edition of the Lady Griz Classic this weekend at Dahlberg Arena. Montana will be joined at the two-day, four-team tournament by Florida Atlantic, Utah State and Tennessee State.

Utah State and Tennessee State will meet in the tournament’s opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. Montana and Florida Atlantic will follow at 3:30 p.m. Florida Atlantic will play in the 1 p.m. game on Sunday, Montana at 3:30 p.m. Depending on Saturday’s results, either game Sunday could be the championship.

Coverage: Saturday’s game will air locally on KMPT 930 AM, Sunday’s game on KGVO 101.5 FM/1290 AM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. Gogriz.com will have live stats and pay-per-view video of all four games.

Robin SelvigBalanced field: All four teams in the tournament have .500 records or better, led by Florida Atlantic’s 5-2 mark. Montana and Tennessee State are both 5-4, Utah State is 4-4. All four have signature wins or are on a roll headed into the tournament.

Florida Atlantic has the field’s best win, winning 62-55 at Florida Gulf Coast last month to snap the Eagles’ 28-game home-court winning streak. It was just the ninth loss for Florida Gulf Coast at Alico Arena in its last 125 games at its home facility.

Montana and Utah State both knocked off Pacific a week before the Tigers won at North Carolina. And Tennessee State has won four of five, its only loss since Nov. 24 coming at No. 9 Mississippi State, a game the Lady Tigers trailed by just one at the half.

“Everybody’s got quality wins, and everybody looks to be good,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, who started the tournament in 1980-81, his third year at Montana. “That should make for an exciting tournament.”

Big Sky Conference around the corner: After the Lady Griz Classic, Montana will get a five-day break for Christmas before returning to practice Saturday evening, Dec. 26.

The Lady Griz will open their 18-game Big Sky Conference schedule at home against Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Montana will host the Lumberjacks on Thursday, Dec. 31, at 4 p.m. and the Thunderbirds on Saturday, Jan. 2, at 2 p.m.

“Mostly what I’m looking for this weekend is continued improvement. Obviously we want to be playing our best basketball so far this year going into conference,” said Selvig, whose team is 4-1 at home, 1-3 away from Missoula.

“We’ve still got a lot of things to work on, because different teams show us different weaknesses.”

Tournament history: Through the Lady Griz Classic’s first 34 editions, Montana has posted a record of 65-3 and enters this year’s tournament having won 15 straight Classic championships. The Lady Griz won last year’s title with 20-point victories over Utah Valley and Austin Peay.

Montana’s three losses at the tournament have come against Washington, 64-59 in 1980-81, Drake, 71-65 in 1981-82, and Arkansas, 74-54 in 1998-99. The Lady Griz have hosted the tournament every year since 1980-81, with the exception of 2009-10.

No stranger, these Owls: Even though their campus in southeast Florida is more than 2,500 miles from Dahlberg Arena, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some connections between Florida Atlantic’s coaches and players with Montana.

Fourth-year coach Kellie Lewis-Jay played basketball at Boise State, her first two years in the program the final two years the Broncos competed in the Big Sky Conference. Her team finished second behind the Lady Griz in the Big Sky in 1994-95 and 1995-96. Her teams went 2-2 against Montana.

Assistant coach Danielle Maloney-Stoimenoff, of Twin Falls, Idaho, played at Carroll, and senior guard Ali Gorrell, the team’s leading scorer (13.9 ppg) and distributor (30 assists) played two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to FAU. She went 1-1 against the Lady Griz in her two years with the Cowgirls.

Saturday will be the first meeting between Montana and Florida Atlantic.

Or the Lady Tigers: Tennessee State played in the Lady Griz Classic in 2012-13 and went 1-1, with a 69-64 victory over Idaho and a 71-48 loss to Montana. That was the first meeting between the two programs.

Montana vs. Utah State: The Lady Griz lead the all-time series against the Aggies 7-2, though Utah State does hold a unique distinction. Montana’s first game under Selvig, back in 1978-79, more than 1,000 games ago, was played in Logan. Utah State defeated Montana 70-49.

The Lady Griz, 4-0 at home against the Aggies, have won the last six matchups between the two teams. USU’s last win in the series came in 1980-81.

More on Florida Atlantic: The Owls play in Conference USA. … FAU went 13-17 last season and tied for 10th in Conference USA at 7-11. … Florida Atlantic was picked 11th out of 14 teams in this year’s preseason poll. … The Owls are coached by Kellie Lewis-Jay, who is in her fourth year. … The team’s leading scorer is senior guard Ali Gorrell (13.9/g).

More on Utah State: The Aggies play in the Mountain West Conference, same as last week’s opponents Colorado State and Wyoming. … USU returned just one starter from a team that went 8-23 last season and tied for ninth in the Mountain West at 5-13. … Utah State was picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in this year’s preseason poll. … The Aggies are coached by Jerry Finkbeiner, who is in his fourth year. … The team’s leading scorer is sophomore guard Funda Nakkasoglu (21.1/g), one of five players named preseason All-Mountain West Conference.

More on Tennessee State: The Lady Tigers play in the Ohio Valley Conference. … TSU went 18-13 last season and finished third in the Ohio Valley at 12-4. … Tennessee State went on a 10-game winning streak last season at just the right time, claiming its final seven regular-season games and winning three Ohio Valley tournament games in three days to advance to the NCAA tournament. … The Lady Tigers lost in the first round to Kentucky, 97-52. … TSU was picked fifth in this year’s OVC preseason poll. … Tennessee State is coached by Larry Joe Inman, who is in his fourth year. Inman, who coached at Eastern Kentucky from 1988-2008, is in the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame. … The Lady Tigers are led in scoring by junior forward I’mani Davis (13.6/g).

Life on the road (stop one): Montana trailed by just three, 15-12, after the first quarter at Colorado State last Thursday. From that point on it was all Rams. CSU outscored the Lady Griz by 18 in the second quarter and by 29 over the final three quarters to win 75-43.

Montana shot 23.1 percent, which was a historic figure. With easy electronic access to box scores back to the 1995-96 season, a worse shooting game was not found. The previous low since the mid-90s was .241 at Portland State in February 1999.

It was a rough outing from the start at Fort Collins and continued the rest of the game. Montana was 4 for 18 (.222) in the first quarter, 4 for 19 (.211) in the second, 3 for 15 (.200) in the third and 4 for 13 (.308) in the fourth.

Life on the road (stop two): Strange game at Wyoming on Saturday, which the Cowgirls won 68-61. Montana trailed by five at the break, then made nine (NINE) more baskets than Wyoming in the second half. And somehow the Cowgirls, who were 5 for 24 (.208) for the half, built upon their halftime lead.

How a team does that: Goes 22 for 26 from the line in the second half, part of a 37-7 discrepancy from the line for the game.

This week’s head-scratcher: In Montana’s last three losses, to Lehigh, Colorado State and Wyoming, the Lady Griz have been outscored 72-24 in the second quarter. Montana outscored those same teams 49-47 in the first quarter.

Montana trailed Lehigh 17-14 after one, then got outscored 27-10 in the second. Colorado State led Montana 15-12 after one and outscored the Lady Griz 26-8 in the second. Montana led at Wyoming 23-15 after one, then got outscored 19-6 in the second.


Kayleigh Valley. Photo by William Munoz for MakeItMissoula.com

Kayleigh Valley, efficiency expert: Kayleigh Valley had her best efficiency rating of the season, 35, in Montana’s loss Saturday at Wyoming. Valley scored 26 points and added nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while going 12 for 17 from the field with no turnovers.

Valley had an efficiency rating of 28 against Portland, Drexel and Cal State Fullerton.

Montana three-dot notes: Despite the loss Saturday at Wyoming, Montana played pretty well. The Lady Griz shot 41.3 percent and turned it over just 11 times. … Those 11 turnovers dropped the team’s season average down to 11.8, the ninth-best mark in the country. … Montana went 4 for 25 (.160) from the arc last week at Colorado State and Wyoming. The Lady Griz made a season-low one triple against the Rams on 13 shots. … Nine games in and Montana still has not been in a game that’s had a fourth-quarter lead change. More drama this weekend please. … Rachel Staudacher’s six rebounds at Colorado State matched a career high. … Alycia Sims went 1 for 14 on last week’s road trip, 1 for 9 at Colorado State, 0 for 5 at Wyoming. … Kayleigh Valley’s 12-for-17 shooting performance at Wyoming on Saturday upped her season percentage to .548, the fourth-best mark in the Big Sky Conference. … Since scoring two points in Montana’s win against Pacific, Valley is averaging more than 22 points per game. … Valley is shooting a robust 53.7 percent in road or neutral-site games. … Mekayla Isaak matched a career high with nine rebounds at Colorado State. Three times this season she has grabbed nine boards. … Jace Henderson’s first career block came midway through the second quarter at Wyoming when she rejected the Cowgirls’ Natalie Baker. … Montana was whistled for a season-high 24 fouls at Wyoming. Its previous season high: 17.

Montana Sports Information