Big Sky Basketball Wrap: Griz Ousted, Lady Griz Beat MSU - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Big Sky Basketball Wrap: Griz Ousted, Lady Griz Beat MSU

LADY GRIZ BEAT RIVAL MSU IN BIG SKY CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT

Montana Junior Kellie Cole scored a game-high 20 points to leadNo. 3 Montana to a 75-66 victory over No. 6 Montana State Thursday evening inthe quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference women's basketball tournament atthe Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

The Lady Griz (21-9) built a commanding 36-14 halftimeadvantage and saw that lead cut to four midway through the second half, butthey made enough free throws and plays down the stretch to win for the thirdtime this season against the Bobcats (15-15) and win their fourth straight gameoverall.

And most important: advance.

"That was a good win for us for sure," said UM coachRobin Selvig, whose team improved to 40-9 in Big Sky tournament games. "Theyare an awfully good team for us to have gotten three times now. I told the kidsat halftime that it probably wouldn't be easy in the second half, and theyproved me right.

"We played well enough and took care of the ball wellenough that the 22-point lead was too much for them to overcome."

Montana will face No. 2 Southern Utah (22-8) Friday at6:30 p.m. (MT) in the tournament's second semifinal. The Thunderbirds, who havewon 10 of their last 11, defeated No. 7 Sacramento State 86-78 Thursdayafternoon.

The semifinals will open Friday with No. 1 North Dakota(20-9) facing No. 5 Idaho State (14-16). The Bengals knocked off No. 4 EasternWashington Thursday night, 80-75 in overtime.

Montana got off to a hot start Thursday and never trailedin the game. The Lady Griz got 3-pointers from seniors Jordan Sullivan andTorry Hill to open a 6-0 lead and six straight points from Cole to build theiradvantage to 12-2.

Montana State answered and cut its deficit to 14-11 atthe 12:56 mark, but the Bobcats scored just a single basket the rest of thehalf and went scoreless the final 8:41 to find themselves facing a 22-pointhalftime deficit.

"We did a nice job. We were talking and playing prettywell, and they couldn't buy one," Selvig said. "We weren't giving them anythingeasy, and they weren't hitting shots, so it was one of those nightmare halveswhere it's just not going in."

The ball wasn't going in, but Montana wasn't allowingmany opportunities for it to go in. The Lady Griz, who allowed 10 first-halfoffensive rebounds in the teams' game at Bozeman last week, gave up just one inthe first half Thursday and no second-chance points.

The result was Montana's largest halftime lead since Jan.2. But no lead has been safe this season against Montana State.

The Lady Griz held a 17-point second-half advantage inthe teams' first meeting this season in Missoula, and the Bobcats rallied backto force overtime. Last week at Bozeman, a 10-point second-half Montana leadgot cut to two in the final minute.

So it was a good bet Montana State, which went 6 for 26(.231) in the first half, wasn't going away quietly, and the Bobcats didn't.

Eight straight points out of the locker room energizedMSU, and a 12-1 run midway through the half, behind a pair of 3-pointers byKalli Durham and six points from Kayla DeWit, cut the lead to 48-44.

Montana State in the first half: 14 points. Montana Statein the first 11 minutes of the second half: 30 points.

It would be hard to pinpoint the play that changed thesecond half's momentum, but here's a try: Freshman Kayleigh Valley, who matchedher career high with 10 points, got the ball on the right block on the nextpossession, and she muscled in a layup to make it 50-44.

A pair of free throws by Sullivan, whose 3-pointer 15seconds into the first half was her only basket of the game, and a rally-killingthree by sophomore McCalle Feller upped the lead to 11, and Montana State wouldget no closer than seven the rest of the way.

The Bobcats put up 52 points in the second half, butMontana went 20 for 25 from the line to keep MSU's scoring outburst fromturning into a comeback victory.

"It wasn't a pretty thing the second half, that's forsure, but you've got to give them credit. They got after us," Selvig said. "Youhad to figure they'd make a run, because you knew they were going to start scoringit.

"Give them credit for hanging in there and battling back,but we made some big baskets and made our free throws."

Cole, who earlier this week was named first-team All-BigSky, was all kinds of fantastic. She had 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting andadded 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals while playing a game-high 37 minutes.Hill had 16 points and 6 assists.

Durham went 4 for 6 from 3-point range and led MontanaState with 16 points.

On Friday Montana will face a Southern Utah team it splitwith during the regular season. The Lady Griz won 81-73 at Missoula. TheThunderbirds won 69-49 at Cedar City on Feb. 26, which was Montana's last loss.The Lady Griz shot a season-worst 25.4 percent in that game.

"I think the ladies really want to play them again. Notthat we think they're not very good and that we're going to beat them, it'sjust that we played so poorly the last time," Selvig said.

"It was the only game all year we weren't in, and now weget a chance to go out and show we're better than that."


PORTLAND STATE KNOCKS OFF MONTANA

Kyle Richardson scored 19 points and DaShaun Wiggins recorded 18 as fifth-seeded Portland State was near perfect from the free throw line late in the game, defeating No. 4 seed Montana 70-63 in a Big Sky Conference tournament quarterfinal on Thursday night.

Portland State (17-13), trailing at halftime, battled back and took a 45-44 second half lead with 7:40 to play. The Vikings extended that lead to eight points on a string of free throw opportunities that netted 9 of 10 from the line, leading to the victory.

Montana (17-13), which split regular-season victories with Portland State -both games decided in overtime- led by two points, 28-26 at halftime.

Kareem Jamar, who was voted first team all-league for the third year in a row, led the Grizzlies with 20 points.

Portland State moves on to play No. 2 seed North Dakota on Friday.

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