Lady Griz pull away for victory

MISSOULA — Jordan Sullivan and Kellie Cole both had double-doubles and Montana used a big second half to pull away from Weber State and post a 68-52 victory over the Wildcats Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena. UM-WSU stats

Anaconda’s Torry Hill scored a game-high 19 points, with 16 coming in the second half as the Lady Griz (11-6, 5-3 BSC) broke free from a one-point game at the half to win for the 11th straight time at Dahlberg Arena over a Big Sky Conference opponent.

Weber State (4-13, 0-8 BSC), which was led by Desiree Ramos’s 17 points, lost its 46th straight Big Sky Conference game and its 34th consecutive league road game.

The current edition of the Wildcats is better than those streaks imply, and WSU created all sorts of problems for Montana at both ends of the court in the first half.

Weber State held the Lady Griz to 29.2 percent shooting in the opening half, but the Wildcats, who built a lead as large as seven, only converted seven of their 15 free throw attempts, and that allowed Montana, which went 11 for 12 from the line, to take a 28-27 lead to the locker room.

It was a drastic change from Montana’s first three Big Sky home games, when the Lady Griz were able to build halftime leads of 9, 18 and 20 points against Eastern Washington, Portland State and Idaho State.

“I told the kids at half, the last three home games we’ve come out and jumped on people and built big leads, but it’s not going to be like that all the time,” UM coach Robin Selvig said.

“Weber State’s a good basketball team. They’ve battled a lot of people close, but they’re just snakebit in league. I suspected today was going to be tough going.

“They did a good job defensively on us. They are smart, quick and athletic, so we had to work for what we got.”

The game’s key stretch, a 14-3 run for the Lady Griz, came in the opening five minutes of the second half. Sullivan and Cole both got inside and converted three-point plays, and Sullivan and Hill capped things with back-to-back 3-pointers that built the lead to 42-30.

But that would be as large as the lead would get until the final two minutes.

The Wildcats twice cut their deficit to four points midway through the half and had possessions to get closer, but each time Montana made just enough plays to keep it from becoming a one-possession game.

It also helped that the Wildcats missed seven more second-half free throws and finished 11 for 26 (.423) for the game. Montana went 22 for 25 (.880).

“That’s what the difference was. We made ours,” said Selvig, who had to coach through 46 fouls being called on the two teams. “(The referees) called a lot of fouls, more similar to how they said games would be called at the start of the year.”

Hill hit a 3-pointer with 6:52 to play that finally extended the lead back to a comfortable nine points, 57-48, and the Montana defense limited Weber State to just two points over the final six and a half minutes.

The Lady Griz shot 48.1 percent in the second half, the Wildcats 30.0 percent.

“They got after us pretty good, but we ended up doing a pretty good job on them as well,” Selvig said. “It was a battle tonight, and we had to find a way to get things done. It wasn’t easy, so this was a really good win for us.”

Hill’s 19 points were one off her career high. Sullivan added 14 points and 11 rebounds while Cole collected her first career double-double with 17 points and a career-high 10 boards. She also finished with a game-high five assists. Carley Selvig had four blocks, giving her 13 over the last three games.

Montana’s bench, with 12 points, was held to its smallest contribution since early December and was outscored for the first time in five games, but the five reserves who saw action didn’t detract anything from the effort either. They grabbed seven rebounds and had just a single turnover.

“It’s critical that you get that kind of play out of them,” said Selvig. “Maybe they don’t come in and make a bunch of shots, but they need to come in and play well.”

Coupled with Thursday’s 67-48 win over Idaho State, Montana is 2-0 to start its four-game home stand, which continues next Saturday against Southern Utah. Montana will host Montana State on Monday, Feb. 3.

Saturday’s win allowed Montana to pull within one in the loss column of the Big Sky leaders, which Idaho State helped make possible by upsetting Montana State in Bozeman Saturday afternoon 74-63.

— Montana Sports Information

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