By Griz Communications
The Montana women’s basketball team led from start to finish on Saturday afternoon, rolling to a one-sided 88-56 victory over Portland State at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
Coming off an emotional comeback victory over Sacramento State on Thursday night, the Lady Griz used the 3-point shot to build a 52-30 halftime lead and cruised from there to improve to 6-4 in Big Sky Conference games.
Carmen Gfeller led four starters in double figures with 19 points, her best scoring game since Jan. 12. Dani Bartsch had her second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Mack Konig played another effective game at the point, totaling 10 points, six assists and four rebounds. Sammy Fatkin had another quietly fantastic game, with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, six rebounds and five assists.
“I’m proud of them. I was hoping the other night would propel us forward and it did,” said coach Brian Holsinger.
It was the second consecutive game Montana has used Gfeller, Fatkin, Bartsch, Konig and Gina Marxen in the starting lineup. Bartsch brings the energy from the opening tip, Konig brings the aggressiveness at the point and a playmaker’s mentality.
The Lady Griz shot 50.0 percent on Thursday, with 18 assists against eight turnovers. Against Portland State’s zone on Saturday, Montana was even more efficient: 24 assists on 29 made baskets, eight turnovers.
“It’s just sparked us,” said Holsinger of his new starting five. “Dani’s energy level and her ability to go get rebounds and make the easy play, her and Mack have really sparked us.
“Mack is so aggressive. Our mindset completely shifts when she has the ball in her hands. Credit to her for having that mindset as a freshman. That’s not easy to do.”
Haley Huard, who had hit just four 3-pointers over Montana’s previous 10 games, hit three on Saturday to score nine points. Keeli Burton-Oliver also totaled nine points. Both had been in the starting lineup.
“I’m really proud of our girls. I told them, I don’t care what the score is or who is out there, we’re just trying to be consistent and play really good basketball. For most of this game, we really did,” said Holsinger.
“I think it’s helped Keeli coming in off the bench. Okay, I can see this and then I can be effective here and there.”
Portland State had won four of its previous five games before making the trip east to face Montana State and Montana this week.
That included a home win over Idaho when the Vikings held the Vandals to just 43 points, a road win at Northern Arizona and one-point home wins over Weber State and Idaho State last week.
Even in Thursday’s 64-52 loss at Montana State, Portland State held a four-point lead in the third quarter.
On Saturday, Montana led 27-19 after the first quarter, then buried the Vikings in the second, outscoring the visitors 25-11 to build a 22-point halftime lead, its largest of the season.
“That team’s a good team,” said Holsinger. “They have battled everybody in our league, if not beat people. They’ve had close games all over the place.”
It was the 3-point shot that triggered the first-half landslide. Montana went 4 for 5 from the arc in the first quarter, 5 for 8 in the second.
Six players hit 3-pointers in the opening half, with Fatkin going 3 for 3, Bartsch 2 for 3.
Montana ended up going 13 for 26, its third consecutive game with 10 or more 3-pointers. It’s the first time the Lady Griz have done that since the 2013-14 season.
“We got confident today from three, which really helps against a zone,” said Holsinger. “Zone is something we’ve really executed well against, and we did that today.”
The nature of the game allowed Holsinger to get minutes for all 12 of his available players. Lisa Kiefer hit a pair of free throws, Lauren Dick scored her first points as a Lady Griz when she hit a pull-up jumper on the baseline, the final of Gina Marxen’s six assists on the day.
They were the final points in Montana’s first N7 game, on a day when Malia Kipp, Tamara Guardipee, Simarron Schildt and Corrie Villegas McDonald were back inside Dahlberg Arena.
After the game, that quartet presented former Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig with a blanket, which they lovingly wrapped around their former coach’s shoulders.
“Robin wanted to win a lot of games, but he did it for these kids, these women,” Holsinger said. “The relationships he has with his former players, the love he has for them, is truly remarkable.
“It’s one of the things I respect about him most. That’s why you see the tears. That’s not just a token. It was so meaningful for them and him. For me, it’s humbling. I just want to do the same.”
Esmeralda Morales led Portland State with 18 points, but she was held to 6-of-19 shooting. Jada Lewis added 12. No one else scored more than five as the Vikings shot 34.5 percent.
Montana will play at Northern Colorado on Thursday, at Northern Arizona next Saturday.
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