STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
MISSOUlA – When a coach’s team shoots 27 percent, as Montana did on Thursday night to fall to Portland State 64-44 at Dahlberg Arena, postgame radio shows tend to be brief and candid.
“It was rough. It was frustrating,” said first-year coach Shannon Schweyen, whose team was stymied by Portland State’s zone defense over the final three quarters.
Tied early in the second quarter at 20, Montana (3-15, 0-7 BSC) made just seven of its next 43 shots, or 16 percent, over the next 25 minutes.
Portland State (10-8, 4-2 BSC) led 32-24 at the half and 48-32 after three quarters to cruise to its fourth straight victory.
“If you’re making a few shots, maybe you’re only down 10 and kind of hanging around a little, then at the end make a run, but I don’t know what to do when you’re shooting like that,” Schweyen said.
The loss wiped out most of the momentum Montana carried into the game after a solid performance on Saturday at North Dakota, when the Lady Griz showed improved play on both ends and everywhere in between.
On Thursday, Montana allowed its frustrations on the offensive end affect its defense. The Vikings, who lead the Big Sky in field goal percentage, shot 51.9 percent, led by Courtney West’s 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
“Instead of taking our frustration and using it to our advantage on the defensive end, we did the opposite,” said Schweyen. “We lost our focus, we lost our assignments, we lost our intensity, and that was really frustrating.
“When things aren’t going well, you’d better find another way to help out and contribute, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
It was a game Montana actually played well through most of the first quarter. After spotting Portland State an early 13-3 lead, with Michaela Kay and Sidney Rielly combining for three 3-pointers, the Lady Griz showed some of the resiliency they displayed on Saturday.
Hailey Nicholson hit a pair of baskets and two free throws, Taylor Goligoski drained a 3-pointer, and Jace Henderson connected on a short jumper while getting fouled to even the score at 16.
Montana shot 46.2 percent in the first quarter, hitting six of 13 shots.
Kay broke a 20-20 tie early in the second quarter with one of her four 3-pointers, and that started a 9-0 run for which Montana had no answers. Facing a zone with size inside and quickness outside, the shots, even the few uncontested ones, quit falling.
The team’s three starting guards, McKenzie Johnston, Madi Schoening and Goligoski, were 5 for 25. Sierra Anderson and Gabi Harrington were 1 for 8 off the bench.
“The guards had a hard time creating for people, because they were cheating off them,” said Schweyen. “It’s rough when nobody’s making an outside shot.
“If you have one of those girls knocking down shots, all of sudden the zone isn’t quite as good. We follow the same principles. When somebody’s not shooting the ball well, you cheat away from them, and that makes it tough for everybody else.”
West was a force at both ends. She was brutally efficient at the offensive end, scoring 18 points on just 12 shots (without the aid of a single free throw attempt), all from five feet and in. She grabbed 13 rebounds and had four of the Vikings’ eight blocks.
“The big kid was a force in the middle. She was a big impact. We kept trying to shoot into her, and she’s a shot blocker,” said Schweyen. “On the other end, we gave her too many layups. We made her look good tonight. We weren’t dialed in at all on D.”
Ashley Bolston added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Kay had 14, mostly from the arc.
All three players are sophomores, as is Rielly, the team’s leading scorer who was held to eight points and four turnovers.
“We did a good job of keeping track of Rielly, but it came at the expense of some other things,” said Schweyen.
Goligoski and Nicholson led Montana with eight points, Mekayla Isaak had seven on 3-of-4 shooting. Schoening and Johnston both had four assists, with Schoening adding four steals.
“It was just a rough one. We’ve got to put that one behind us,” said Schweyen. “Hopefully the girls learn from it.”
Montana will host Sacramento State (6-11, 2-4 BSC) on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Hornets lost 84-80 at Montana State on Thursday.
In addition to Portland State, three other league teams picked up road wins on Thursday. Idaho won at Southern Utah, 85-68, Northern Colorado won 77-62 at Idaho State to remain unbeaten atop the standings, and North Dakota held off Weber State, 70-65.
Northern Arizona won at home over Eastern Washington, 56-47.