Lady Griz, Fighting Hawks Meet for Third Time


It’s March and the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball tournament, which means there are no more secrets. When the quarterfinals tip off Wednesday, all four games will feature teams that have played one another within the last three weeks. Four of the teams met just last Wednesday.

“It’s no longer a question of figuring out what they do or them figuring out what you do. At this time of year, it’s about who does it better,” said coach Robin Selvig, whose No. 5 Lady Griz face No. 4 North Dakota Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. (MT). “We have strengths, they have strengths. There are no secrets.”

Wednesday’s action starts at 1 p.m. (MT) when No. 1 Montana State faces a team the Bobcats would probably just as soon avoid: No. 9 Idaho State. Not only have the Bengals won three straight, including Monday’s 54-45 win over No. 8 Northern Colorado, they had the Bobcats beat in Bozeman on Feb. 27.

MSU needed two Delaney Junkermier 3-pointers in the final 13 seconds of regulation to force overtime and a 54-28 advantage in free throw attempts to pull out an 82-80 victory.

That game will be followed by Montana and North Dakota facing for the third time and the eighth time over the last three seasons. UND defeated the Lady Griz in the 2014 tournament championship game and swept the regular-season games this season. In both, one bad quarter proved costly to Montana.

In the first meeting of the season, in Missoula, the Lady Griz fell behind 15-7 after one quarter. Montana never did hold a lead after the first period, but a McCalle Feller 3-pointer with 17 seconds left tied it at 59.

That only set the stage Fighting Hawks to win it at the buzzer. With UND inbounding under its own basket, Mia Loyd got free, and she laid it in just before the horn for the 61-59 win and North Dakota’s first-ever win in Missoula.

The teams met last Wednesday in Grand Forks. This time it was a 25-12 second quarter that put the Fighting Hawks up for good. Montana outscored North Dakota 22-12 in the third quarter to get back into it, but the 17-point halftime deficit proved to be too much. Montana fell 73-61.

“We just watched video of our last game with them, and we basically lost one quarter,” said Selvig. “We had a horrible quarter when we didn’t shoot it well and they played great.

“If we played them all over again the last couple of years, the games might have turned out different. That’s how close they’ve been.”

Since the 2013-14 season, when North Dakota won both the regular-season and tournament championships, the Fighting Hawks are 5-2 against Montana. To win for the sixth time in eight games against the Lady Griz, North Dakota would need to finish off a three-game season sweep Wednesday.

“To beat any team three times in one season is just statistically hard to do,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “It makes it even harder when it’s Montana. Robin is always prepared and always gets the most out of his players, so it’s a pretty daunting task to try to play against him.

“For us to have had some success against them the last couple of years, a lot of things have had to go right, because his teams don’t beat themselves. His players know their roles and they do them well, and that makes them a really, really good basketball team.”

Montana advanced to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round with a 78-63 victory over No. 12 Northern Arizona Monday afternoon in a game that was closer than the final score indicates. The Lady Griz led 33-32 at the half and 51-49 through three quarters before pulling away in the fourth.

McCalle Feller had 28 points, Kayleigh Valley had 23 points and a career-high eight assists, Alycia Sims had her eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Haley Vining finished with nine points and seven assists.

Wednesday’s night session will start off with No. 2 Eastern Washington facing the team no one is comfortable playing, No. 7 Sacramento State, which broke the Big Sky tournament scoring record in its 102-89 victory over No. 10 Southern Utah on Monday.

The teams split during the regular season, with both winning on the other team’s home court. The Eagles won 100-83 at Sacramento, the Hornets won 94-91 at Cheney.

The teams tip off at 6:30 p.m. (MT), followed at 9 p.m. (MT) by No. 3 Idaho facing No. 6 Weber State, which sent No. 11 Portland State home with a 91-68 win Monday night.

Like Montana and North Dakota, the Vandals and Wildcats played last Wednesday in Ogden, Utah, in their only meeting of the season. Idaho came away with a 77-70 road win.

The winners of Wednesday afternoon’s quarterfinals will play at 1 p.m. (MT) on Friday in the semifinals. The evening winners will follow at 3:30 p.m. (MT) on Friday. Saturday’s championship game will be played at 1 p.m. (MT).

Montana Sports Information