Montana finished alone in third place in the final Big Sky Conference standings and will face No. 6 Montana State in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky tournament next week at Grand Forks, N.D. Bracket
Montana (20-9, 14-6 BSC) finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak, capped by Saturday’s 83-66 victory over Northern Arizona, but it wasn’t enough to chase down the Big Sky leaders.
North Dakota (20-9, 15-5 BSC) and Southern Utah (21-8, 15-5 BSC), both in their second year in the league, shared the regular-season championship. The Thunderbirds tied UND atop the standings with a 63-48 victory over Northern Colorado Saturday night at Cedar City, Utah.
North Dakota earned hosting rights because of its season sweep of fourth-place Eastern Washington (16-13, 12-8 BSC). UND and Southern Utah split their head-to-head matchups this winter, and both split with third-place Montana. The Thunderbirds split with Eastern Washington.
The seven-team tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday at UND’s Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
On Thursday, No. 2 Southern Utah will face No. 7 Sacramento State (18-11, 10-10 BSC) at 1:30 p.m. (MT). No. 3 Montana and No. 6 Montana State (15-14, 10-10 BSC) will follow at 4 p.m. (MT), and No. 4 Eastern Washington and No. 5 Idaho State (13-16, 11-9 BSC) will match up at 6:30 p.m. (MT).
Southern Utah swept its season series with Sacramento State, winning 97-79 at Sacramento and 93-74 at Cedar City. Montana swept Montana State, 84-79 in overtime at Missoula and 72-65 on Monday at Bozeman. Eastern Washington and Idaho State split their series, with each team winning at home. The Eagles won 67-55 at Cheney, the Bengals won 86-62 on Thursday at Pocatello.
No. 1 North Dakota will face the lowest seed of the three quarterfinal winners on Friday at 4 p.m. (MT) in the first semifinal. The other two quarterfinal winners will meet at 6:30 p.m. (MT).
Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (MT).
Montana and Montana State have met 16 times in the postseason. The Lady Griz hold a 12-4 advantage.
Their last Big Sky tournament meeting came two years ago. Montana swept the regular-season matchups in 2011-12, but Montana State won their tournament quarterfinal game at Pocatello, Idaho, 68-59.
Montana has won the Big Sky Conference tournament championship 16 times in the first 25 years of the women’s tournament.
— Montana Sports Information