Game Recap

High scoring Lady Griz jet past Hornets


It was the Carmen Gfeller and Abby Anderson show, with a strong performance by the headliners’ supporting cast, on Thursday night as the Montana women’s basketball team won its Big Sky Conference home opener with a 90-77 victory over Sacramento State at Dahlberg Arena.

Gfeller scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added 11 rebounds for her first career double-double. She reached 20 points for the third straight game, becoming the first player to do that since Kayleigh Valley, and for the fifth time this season.

Anderson added 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and was her usual menacing self on the defensive end. She blocked five shots as the Lady Griz (6-4, 3-2 BSC) held their opponent below 40 percent shooting for the eighth time in the last nine games.

Sophia Stiles had 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals, Madi Schoening maintained her recently found hot hand, going for nine points and seven rebounds, and Hannah Thurmon and Jordyn Schweyen both hit a pair of 3-pointers.

It helped Montana reach 90 points for the first time since, well, late last season when the Lady Griz put up 90 points in a home win over the Hornets (0-10, 0-7 BSC).

Gfeller leads the Big Sky in field-goal percentage and only strengthened that on Thursday. She is now at 56.5 percent for the season. What was different on this night was her work on the boards. Her 11 were four more than her previous career high.

“Carmen is having a great year, and she still wants to get better,” said coach Mike Petrino. “She knows what she can be better in, so she took pride in crashing the boards better.”

Montana sophomore forward Carmen Gfeller (20) in 2020/by Griz Communications

It was those boards that helped Montana overcome a 0-for-5 start to the game and 26.3 percent shooting in the first quarter.

The Lady Griz started 5 for 19 but grabbed six offensive rebounds in the opening quarter. The five second-chance points those led to allowed Montana to lead 16-12 after one. The lead remained in Montana’s favor the rest of the game.

“What kept us in the game were those offensive rebounds in the first quarter,” said Petrino. “We had shots that didn’t go. Our offensive rebounds kept us aggressive.

“It’s one thing to miss shots. You miss shots and you become less aggressive on defense. If you’re missing shots but still crashing the boards, you’re still staying aggressive.”

Petrino had just one message for his team after 10 minutes: Relax, we’re getting good looks.

“The shots we got to start the game weren’t bad,” Petrino added. “We got post touches, which was a big part of what we wanted to do. They just didn’t go in.”

That wouldn’t last. Montana shot 60 percent in the second quarter and led 39-34 at the break, then went 18 for 29 (.621) in the second half to finish at 50.8 percent for the game, the Lady Griz’ third straight at 50 percent or better.

“In the second half I thought we were much better,” said Petrino. “We talked at halftime about establishing inside better. That’s where we felt we had an advantage.

“It was Carmen and Abby getting to work.” The dynamic duo combined for 30 points in the second half on 11-of-15 shooting.

Anderson’s five blocks were a season high and came all over the court, from basket to arc.

“One of the underrated parts of Abby’s game is the way she can defend the perimeter,” Petrino said. “When she is focused and dialed in, she can defend and contest a lot of shots. She did a good job on both ends.”

When Montana put up 90 on Sacramento State late last season, it was part of a 90-45 win.

On Thursday, the Hornets never trailed by more than eight in the first half and pulled within four late in the third quarter before the Lady Griz went on a 13-2 run to pull away for good.

“They are a tough, gritty team, and they are getting people back and getting more and more healthy,” said Petrino. “They play hard and are very tough and competitive.”

After scoring 12 points in the first quarter, Sacramento State put up 22 in the second, 20 in the third, 23 in the fourth.

“That’s too many,” said Petrino. “Some of our best possessions were when we got it down under 10 (seconds on the shot clock) and they made a good shot. We have to do a better job of finishing some possessions.

“That can be tough to do, because they are aggressive. They come at you hard.”

Montana sophomore guard Jordy Schweyen (22) in 2019/by Brooks Nuanez

Schweyen hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the opening quarter. Thurmon hit her first early in the second on a sweet kick-out pass from Gfeller, who was surrounded by Hornets but managed to find the open shooter.

“It’s not just about getting the ball down into the post. It’s about getting the ball in the paint and then playing off that,” said Petrino.

“Hannah and Jordyn lately have been hitting threes for us. They are a threat. If we can establish inside and have those shooters on the outside, that makes us a lot better.”

Leading by five at the half, Montana would extend that to 13 in the first five minutes of the third quarter.

That was the part of the game when the Lady Griz lost touch with Northern Arizona on Saturday. NAU opened the second half on a 10-0 run, and Montana was never able to catch back up.

“We talked about the first five minutes of the third quarter being big. That was the stretch we lost momentum in the NAU game. I thought we had a better five-minute stretch,” said Petrino.

Sacramento State answered with a 10-0 run to make it 56-52 late in the third before Montana took control.

The Lady Griz led by 10 entering the fourth, then built that to 15 a minute into the fourth quarter. That was the surge that finally did in Sacramento State.

Montana would go 10 for 13 in the fourth quarter.

The Hornets had four players in double figures, with Tiana Johnson scoring 14.

The teams will tip off at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Press release courtesy of Joel Carlson – Griz Communications.

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

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