Lady Cats pull away for victory over Lady Griz

Montana State turned a strong third quarter into a win Saturday.  (MSU photo by Kelly Gotham)

By GoGriz.com

Trailing at the half, Montana State used a big third quarter to help the Bobcats rally for a 71-54 victory over Montana on Saturday afternoon at Worthington Arena in Bozeman.

Montana State (20-6, 13-3 BSC) won its 23rd consecutive home game, swept the season series from the Lady Griz (5-22, 2-14 BSC) for the first time since 1998-99 and used Northern Colorado’s loss at North Dakota to move into sole possession of second place in the Big Sky Conference standings.

The Lady Griz dropped to 0-14 away from home this season.

Montana held Montana State to 2-of-13 shooting in the first quarter and led 16-6 through one period.

The lead was still 10, 20-10, midway through the second before the Bobcats got on track. A 12-2 run tied it at 22.

Peyton Ferris, one of three Montana State starters in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds, made it 26-26 late in the first half.

Sierra Anderson gave Montana a 29-26 halftime lead over the Big Sky’s second-highest scoring team with a 3-pointer from the left side in the final minute of the half.

Nobody had more than six points for the Bobcats, who went 2 for 12 from 3-point range through the first 20 minutes.

“I thought the girls did an amazing job in the first half defensively and following the game plan of what we were trying to do,” said coach Shannon Schweyen. “I thought we slowed them down a bunch. We made sure we were getting to the right shooters and not letting certain people get shots.

“Then it got away from us in the third quarter.”

The Lady Griz had seven of their 17 turnovers in the third quarter, and the Bobcats used those extra possessions, and 50 percent shooting, to not just take the lead but blow the game open.

Trailing 34-31 after Hailey Nicholson, who would lead Montana with 13 points, converted a three-point play, Montana State scored 18 straight points, a run that started and ended with 3-pointers by Hannah Caudill.

Montana State was 8 for 17 from 3-point range in the second half, with Caudill going 4 for 7 and Delany Junkermier 3 for 5. Junkermier led both teams with 19 points. Caudill added 15, all on 3-pointers.

“Those two just got away from us too easily,” said Schweyen. “When they got open, they knocked them down. They hit so many second-half threes, it just killed us.

“And we had some stretches in the second half when we struggled scoring. We got impatient and weren’t getting into our stuff. Everybody played hard, but it’s one of those games where shooting 35 percent isn’t going to get it done.”

The Bobcats outscored the Lady Griz, who went 2 for 11 for the period, 26-7 in the third quarter and led 52-36 going into the fourth.

Junkermier twice put her team up a game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter as Montana State won for the ninth time in 10 games.

Nicholson was the only Montana player to reach double figures with 13 points. Emma Stockholmhad nine points and Gabi Harrington added seven points and six rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench.

McKenzie Johnston, who scored 17 points in the teams’ first meeting, a 75-69 overtime win for Montana State earlier this month, finished with eight points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Taylor Goligoski, who led Montana in the first game with 19 points, was held to no field goals and just two points.

“She had a hard time getting going. They were stuck on her,” said Schweyen. “She hurt them the last time out, so she was a focus of what they were going to try to take away.”

Montana will host Weber State (12-15, 6-10 BSC) on Wednesday and Idaho State (16-11, 10-6 BSC) on Friday in its final regular-season games before heading to Reno for the Big Sky tournament.

The Lady Griz are in 11th place and would face Idaho in a first-round game if the standings were to remain as they are today.

Montana State and North Dakota, which handled Northern Colorado for the second time this season, 75-68 in Grand Forks, were the only teams to win at home on Saturday.

Idaho won 82-77 at Weber State, Eastern Washington won 61-58 at Idaho State, Sacramento State won 110-104 at Southern Utah, and Portland State won 74-73 in overtime at Northern Arizona.

Big Sky Conference standings:

North Dakota … 14-2 BSC (19-8 overall)
Montana State … 13-3 (20-6)
Northern Colorado … 12-4 (20-7)
Eastern Washington … 11-5 (16-11)
Idaho State … 10-6 (16-11)
Idaho … 10-6 (15-12)
Portland State … 7-9 (13-15)
Weber State … 6-10 (12-15)
Sacramento State … 6-10 (10-17)
Northern Arizona … 4-12 (8-19)
Montana … 2-14 (5-22)
Southern Utah … 1-15 (6-21)