Northern Colorado’s two stars had an answer for whatever Montana threw at them Saturday, as Savannah Smith scored 31 points and Alexis Chapman had 17 in a 73-62 win at Dahlberg Arena.
The win kept Northern Colorado, the defending league champions undefeated at 5-0 in Big Sky Conference play, and pushed the Lady Griz to 3-3 after a 3-0 start.
Northern Colorado started hot, scoring 27 points in the first quarter and taking a double-digit lead for most of the first half behind Smith’s 18 points in the first 20 minutes.
“[Smith] has an incredible change of pace, and the ability to shoot the step-back 3, and she gets to the hole,” Montana coach Shannon Schweyen said. “She’s a pretty complete player. … They run her off so many screens and so many different actions, eventually you end up with somebody on her that shouldn’t be on her, and she makes you pay.”
Behind some defensive adjustments that eventually forced Smith into eight turnovers, Montana cut Northern Colorado’s lead down to single digits twice in the second half.
The first time, it was Chapman with the response, as she hit a 3 and then a layup to key a 7-0 run to close the third quarter and push an eight-point lead back out to 15 going to the fourth.
“Chapman, she’s a nice player,” Schweyen said. “She’s shooting it really well from 3. If you have so many people focused on Smith, somebody else is open.”
Montana didn’t give up, and a 10-0 run from the Lady Griz, featuring five points from senior post Jace Henderson, cut the lead again, this time to 68-62 with just under three minutes left.
This time, it was Smith answering, as she isolated and drove to the rim for the clinching layup.
It wouldn’t matter in the end, as Montana didn’t score down the stretch, missing their last five shots and turning the ball over three times in the last minute.
“We had plenty of shots, plenty of good looks at things,” Schweyen said. “We just have to shoot a little better percentage.”
Ali Meyer did the dirty work for Northern Colorado with 13 rebounds, along with eight points.
Henderson led the Lady Griz with 15 points and added seven rebounds. Emma Stockholm had 13 and nine boards for the Lady Griz, and Gabi Harrington finished with 12 and nine.
After a stretch of six games in 15 games to start conference play, Montana will have a week off before the Lady Griz host Idaho next Saturday at 2 p.m.
“We need this time to get some practices,” Schweyen said. “It feels like all we’ve been doing is prepping for an opponent, we haven’t really had a lot of practices to work on things.”
Northern Colorado hosts Montana State on Monday night.