Game Recap

Lady Griz sweep Eagles, win fifth straight game

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All of a sudden, a team that had not had a winning streak since the retirement of a legend is on the longest victory surge in the Big Sky Conference. 

The University of Montana women’s basketball team experienced countless winning streaks of four games or more during Robin Selvig’s unforgettable 38-year tenure, an era that included 865 victories and 21 conference titles. 

Since Selvig retired in 2016, the Lady Griz did not have a streak of more than three straight wins until Montana won its fourth straight game by posting a 65-53 win Eastern Washington in Missoula on Thursday. 

Meanwhile around the Big Sky over the last week or so, Idaho State had its 14-game winning streak snapped in a lopsided loss to rival Idaho. The Bengals then turned around and snapped Montana State’s eight-game winning streak by posting a 69-59 win over the Bobcats in Pocatello.

On Saturday in Cheney, the Lady Griz gutted out a 65-62 win over EWU to win its fifth straight game. Three of the five wins came on the road and last Saturday’s win over winless Weber State was by just a single point. Yet Montana now holds the longest winning streak in the conference and its longest successful spurt since February of 2016. 

“I think we grew this week in toughness,” UM head coach Mike Petrino said. “We got tougher this weekend. We needed that.”

The victory also helps Montana continue its quest for one of the top five seeds at next month’s Big Sky Tournament in Boise, Idaho. UM now sits at 9-5 in league play, alone in fourth place. UM is 12-7 overall with four games remaining on its regular-season schedule. 

Montana forward Carmen Gfeller (20) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

Montana State earned a 88-80 win over Idaho State in Bozeman on Saturday. Idaho posted a 75-64 win at Portland State. That means the Bengals are 12-2 in league play, a game ahead of Idaho (12-3) for first place. MSU sits at 11-3. Southern Utah is in fifth place at 4-3 but is at risk of not playing enough games to meet the quota for post-season eligility. 

The usual suspects paced the Lady Griz in Cheney against an upstart Eagles team that fell to 5-11 in league play despite 19 points from Kennedy Dickie and 16 more from emerging freshman Maisie Burnham. 

Montana’s three leaders all season have been junior point guard Sophia Stiles, junior center Abby Anderson and sophomore power forward Carmen Gfeller. Those three led the way again as Montana rallied in the fourth quarter to win again. 

Anderson scored 16 points and ripped down 13 rebounds to help UM to a 548-31 advantage on the glass. Gfeller scored 14 points and added eight rebounds despite battling foul trouble. Stiles had 13 points, six rebounds, and five steals as UM forced 15 EWU turnovers. 

And the Malta native was particularly good down the stretch.

In a one-point game midway through the fourth quarter on the road, Stiles took charge with an 8-0 run and held on for the win.

“I remember saying in one of our timeouts, ‘This is our game.’ I didn’t want another one to slip away like we did against Portland State,” Stiles said, referring to Montana’s 61-60 loss to the Vikings on Feb. 4, or the last time the Lady Griz lost a game.

“I definitely made a conscious effort to try to make something happen.”

In another of Montana’s physical battles with the Eagles, Stiles scored eight points in the fourth quarter, 11 in the second half.

“Sophie had a look in her eye. She said in the huddle, ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’ She said it and then she went and did it,” Petrino said. “She refused to let this team lose this game.”

The Lady Griz overcame a fourth quarter deficit by shooting 8-of-14 in the final frame, offsetting what was otherwise a tough shooting day for the visitors. UM was 13-of-51 before that.

“There was a key stretch in the fourth quarter when we got stops and scores. That helped us separate a little bit,” Petrino said.

“We didn’t have our best shooting night, but this resilient group came through and got the job done.”

Montana gets back into action next week against Idaho State in Missoula before finishing the regular-season with a pair against Idaho in Moscow. 

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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