Game Recap

Idaho State win in Missoula again, sweep Lady Griz for second straight year

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Seton Sobolewski has spent more than a decade as a head women’s basketball coach. Idaho State’s 12th-year head coach knows just how hard it used to be (and in normal years still is) to win in Missoula.

This season, Idaho State is the front-runner in a competitive conference. And the last two wins for the Bengals at Dahlberg Arena Thursday night and Saturday afternoon affirmed Sobolewski’s team as the squad to beat.

Thursday, Idaho State ripped the Lady Griz of Montana, winning the fourth quarter by 20 and the final spread 79-49, marking the largest margin of victory by a visitor to UM in more than four decades.

Saturday, Montana did not let things get as out of hand yet still let a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter expand as ISU posted a 72-56 victory.

The win moves ISU to 14-2 in league play and 18-3 overall. The Thursday result snapped Montana’s first five-game winning streak in more than five years and Saturday’s result drops UM to 9-7 in Big Sky play.

Idaho State (18-3, 14-2 BSC) matched a season high with 11 3-pointers, shot 49.2 percent overall and flipped Montana’s 18 turnovers into 26 game-changing points.

The Lady Griz didn’t need to be perfect on Saturday to win, but they needed to take care of the ball if they wanted to send Madi Schoening, the team’s lone senior, out on a high note.

“Twenty-six points off turnovers. There you go. We cut that in half and it gives us a better chance,” said UM interim head coach coach Mike Petrino in a UM press release on a night his team whose team shot 42 percent, up from 31.5 percent on Thursday night.

It was Montana’s eighth time this season turning the ball over 18 or more times.

“We have to value the ball. We were shooting the ball well enough to keep pace, but the turnovers kept hurting us.”

They did. Montana (12-9, 9-7 BSC) had just a single turnover through the game’s opening seven minutes, and during that time the Lady Griz built a pair of five-point leads.

They were scoring at a good rate against the league’s top defensive team. Then the game changed quickly.

At halftime Montana had 10 turnovers, or nearly one per minute after starting off so well. Montana trailed at the half 42-33 despite shooting 54.2 percent through the opening 20 minutes.

“At halftime we were shooting 54 percent and losing. Offensively we were fine,” said Petrino.

Idaho State does so little to hurt itself that the nine-point deficit felt like a wide gulf. Limiting any comeback attempt by Montana was its 2-for-14 shooting from the 3-point line.

The Lady Griz went just 4 for 29 from the arc in two games against the Bengals.

Nyah Morris-Nelson hit both of Montana’s 3-pointers on Saturday. One came from the corner and still managed to bank in.

“I don’t care how they go in anymore, I just want to see them go in,” said Petrino. “We need that area to improve.”

One of the reasons Montana was 14 points closer on Saturday was the interior presence of Carmen Gfeller and Abby Anderson.

Gfeller finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Anderson had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

The nonstop double teams were still coming, as they did on Thursday, but the players were better at creating shots against the pressure this time around.

“We made some adjustments that I thought worked and got us better shots,” said Petrino. “Carmen and Abby played a fantastic game and were very efficient scoring the ball.”

Gfeller had her third consecutive game of 14 or more points after being held below 10 in five of Montana’s previous seven games. Anderson had her seventh straight double-figure scoring game.

Sophia Stiles had nine points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Morris-Nelson had six points on her two 3-pointers.

“I’m really proud of the effort the girls gave. I thought we were resilient. We weren’t happy with the way we played Thursday,” said Petrino, whose team got outscored 29-9 in the fourth quarter in that game.

“We finished the game today. Effort-wise, we played four solid quarters. But we’ve got to take better care of the ball and we’ve got to shoot better outside the paint.”

Montana got it down to six midway through the third quarter, 46-40, and had possession, but a turnover was followed by an Idaho State 3-pointer, and that started a 7-0 run that proved to be too much to overcome.

The Bengals shot 7 for 12 in the fourth quarter, including 4 of 6 from the arc.

“They are a really good team. There is a reason they are in first place and have only lost a few games this year,” said Petrino.

“And if that team is hitting 11 threes, which is well above their average, they are really tough to beat.”

Callie Bourne led Idaho State with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Montana concludes its regular-season schedule with a game at Idaho on Friday at 7 p.m. (MT) in Moscow. The Lady Griz will then travel to Boise for the Big Sky tournament, which opens on Monday, March 8.

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