The Montana women’s basketball team put up a 28-point first quarter and never looked back on Saturday, winning 85-57 over a last-place Weber State team that came to town at just the right time.
The Lady Griz (10-8, 5-4 BSC) entered the game on a three-game losing streak during which they averaged 56.3 points on 30.4 percent shooting.
Those offensive struggles were nowhere to be seen on Saturday. Montana hit five 3-pointers in the opening period and went 11 for 18 overall to grab a big lead it would hold the rest of the afternoon.
“It was a great start for the ladies to come out and knock down those shots. It’s always helpful when you make those first ones, and we had multiple people doing it,” said coach Shannon Schweyen.
“It was a little contagious. Everyone was feeling it. We were getting good looks off penetration and kicks. It was great to see some kids get some confidence. We needed a game like that.”
Indeed. After dropping road games at Portland State and Idaho last week, Montana opened a four-game home stand on Thursday with a disappointing loss to Idaho State.
The Lady Griz went just 4 for 23 in the second half as the Bengals pulled away for a 67-53 victory.
Enter Weber State (3-15, 1-8 BSC), with its RPI of 303, its season scoring margin of -17.1 and its 390 turnovers through 17 games. Saturday’s game played out accordingly and as expected.
But that does not happen without some offensive fireworks, and those got lit early in a game Montana led from start to finish. Literally.
Weber State was charged with a technical foul for a uniform violation before the game even tipped off, and Emma Stockholm had the home team in the lead before the jump ball.
Twenty-one seconds later, Madi Schoening would hit a 3-pointer, the first of five makes from distance for the Lady Griz in the opening period.
McKenzie Johnston hit one, Taylor Goligoski hit two just 43 seconds apart, and Jamie Pickens connected as well.
With Weber State turning the ball over 22 times, which led to Montana taking 70 shots to the Wildcats’ 44, the outcome was decided before the second quarter began.
If there is one number that stands out and tells the story, besides Montana’s 7-for-14 effort from the arc and its 51.4 percent shooting overall, it’s this: Johnston played just 22 minutes, her fewest since the fifth game of her freshman season.
She had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and called it a day in the third quarter, her coaches saving her for bigger battles ahead. It was fine. Her teammates had this one.
Goligoski, who went 3 for 4 from 3-point range, had 15 points off the bench, as did Jamie Pickens, who made playing the Wildcats look like she was back dominating in high school again.
There was a 3-pointer, a mid-range jumper and some sweet post moves. Then some drives to the basket that caught Weber State’s defenders flatfooted. Six-foot-two post players usually don’t do such things with such ease.
When her 24 minutes were done, she had 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting with three assists.
“Jamie had a great Thursday and Saturday,” said Schweyen. “Some of those drives she had were nice. She’s a good handler.
“She has a good feel out there in the open court. She showed a little bit of what she can do, which is a mix of things.”
Emma Stockholm added 13 points in just 18 minutes and all nine active players scored.
All but Kylie Frohlich had a basket, but that doesn’t mean the sophomore forward wasn’t productive. She grabbed seven rebounds, had two steals and two plays that brought the Lady Griz bench to its feet.
“She took two tough charges in there. She’s getting a knack for that. And she made some great hustle plays,” said Schweyen.
Weber State scored 22 points in the third quarter but still finished right at its season scoring average of 56.4.
It was all about the turnovers for the Wildcats, who live and die by their success at recklessly driving the ball to the basket and forcing passes in traffic where said passes have little chance of reaching their target.
“Our on-ball pressure was good tonight,” said Schweyen. “Nobody on their team has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, so we wanted to try to speed up their tempo a little bit. I felt like we got some good turnovers because of it.”
Now the true tests arrive, right on schedule, with the calendar a week from now flipping to February.
Montana will host Portland State (12-8, 6-4 BSC), which has already defeated the Lady Griz once this month, on Thursday, Big Sky Conference-leading Montana State (12-6, 8-1 BSC) next Saturday.
The Vikings ended Northern Arizona’s five-game winning streak on Saturday, winning 66-54 in Portland. The Bobcats, whose only league loss is by a point to Idaho in double overtime, outlasted Idaho State on Saturday 67-59.
“A couple big ones, that’s for sure. Hopefully we’ll get some great crowds. We’ll need it,” said Schweyen.
Press release courtesy of Joel Carlson – Griz Communications.
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved