(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
SACRAMENTO — The same third-quarter lull that proved costly to Montana in its loss at Portland State on Thursday night repeated itself on Saturday, and it sent the Lady Griz to their fifth consecutive loss at The Nest in Sacramento.
Up 39-35 at the half, Sacramento State scored the first 13 points of the third quarter and rode that momentum all the way to the finish and a 79-64 victory.
“You have to be focused and in tune with what’s going on, and unfortunately we came out on sleep again,” said coach Shannon Schweyen.
“We did that on Thursday, so you’d think we would have learned from that and been ready to go. It was basically kind of a repeat.”
It was a 12-0 run by the Vikings on Thursday that broke open what was a one-point game early in the third quarter.
Two days later Montana combined missed shots and turnovers coming out of the half with gifted open looks for the Hornets, who finished their week with a sweep of the Montana schools.
Sacramento State’s leading scorer, Hannah Friend, who laid 31 on Montana State on Thursday night and is a high-priority target, drained an open 3-pointer on the Hornets’ first possession of the third quarter, and they rolled from there.
“We came out and had no intensity on defense,” said Schweyen. “We let their leading scorer get the first wide-open shot. We had no communication and a stretch when we didn’t have our people.
“They are hard to close out for 40 minutes, but it was the miscommunication that was unacceptable. You can’t have that if you want to be in a ball game like this.”
Montana missed its first seven shots of the second half and finished the third quarter with six turnovers and eight points on 2-of-13 shooting. Sacramento State outscored the Lady Griz 19-8 for the period.
All of which spoiled a game that was competitive the other three quarters, which doesn’t mean much in the binary world of wins and losses.
Behind Caitlin Lonergan’s nine first-half points, Montana was within four at the break despite Sacramento State shooting 50 percent and only turning the ball over five times.
The Lady Griz had set themselves up to challenge for a road win, only to see that vanish quickly as the third quarter got underway.
Montana would cut what grew into a 19-point Sacramento State lead early in the fourth quarter down to nine, 73-64, on a Madi Schoening 3-pointer with a minute left, but that would be as close as the Lady Griz would get.
“We started knocking some down, but it was a little too late,” said Schweyen. “We were able to make it interesting, but that third quarter just killed us.
“I’m proud of the way the girls battled. It wasn’t for lack of playing hard, that’s for sure.”
Friend would finish with 18 points but needed 25 shots to do it. What she did by volume, two teammates did by efficiency.
Justyce Dawson scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Tiara Scott added 17 points and five assists on 6-of-10 shooting. They combined to go 6 for 9 from the arc.
“They are hard to contain. If they don’t get all the way to the hole, they stop and kick and find somebody else. It’s close-out all day long,” said Schweyen. “They had kids step up and make big shots.
“If you’re too big, then it’s hard to guard them. They run enough stuff that they get you moving around and get your bigs out on the perimeter, so it’s challenging to find ways to keep them from getting easy ones.”
Montana turned it over 17 times, not outrageous against the Hornets, but the Lady Griz only forced seven themselves. That led to an 18-2 discrepancy in points scored off turnovers.
And even Montana’s rebounding advantage — the Lady Griz grabbed 15 on the offensive end — didn’t produce dividends. They were only +2 in second-chance points.
“We had a lot of offensive rebounds but it was one of those games when they didn’t turn into many baskets,” said Schweyen. “When you see a big number like that, you hope you’re getting some putbacks, but I can only think of two or three that we scored on.
“We needed to execute better offensively and not turn it over as much as we did. I thought we got a little bit frenzied.”
Lonergan, who had 19 points at Portland State on Thursday, finished with a team-high 15 off the bench, plus eight rebounds.
McKenzie Johnston, who played all 40 minutes for the second game of the road trip, added 12 points, with Schoening finishing with 10 and Jace Henderson a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double.
The 0-2 road trip has Montana clinging to fourth place in the league standings with an 8-5 Big Sky record. The Lady Griz are two games behind Northern Colorado (10-3) and Idaho (9-3) in the loss column.
Of greater concern are Idaho State, Portland State and Eastern Washington sitting at 7-5 and all wanting to climb over the Lady Griz and to break into the top four by regular season’s end, which will lead to a first-round bye in Reno.
Montana’s final five regular-season games will come against teams all currently above .500 in league, starting next week at home against Eastern Washington (12-12, 7-5 BSC) and Idaho (13-10, 9-3 BSC), which is on a seven-game winning streak.