MISSOULA – The college season started over three weeks ago, and the Montana Lady Griz have only played three games. Montana will start picking up the pace over the next month while looking for some consistency.
The Lady Griz dominated NAIA foe Providence in between two blowout losses. Gonzaga and South Dakota each put away UM by over 20 points. But those two teams rank in the top six of the national mid-major poll, so Montana got a chance to see how they measure up while learning some tips.
“They were good learning experiences for us,” said head coach Shannon Schweyen. “To get up against that kind of caliber of basketball teams, and see some things we need to improve on, for sure. We were really impressed with the way South Dakota moved the ball, their ball movement, their defense. So trying to take a chapter out of their book and improve in some of those areas for us.”
“We just have to keep mutual feeling as we keep going and keep having confidence,” said junior point guard McKenzie Johnston. “All of the girls, there is more confidence this year in our abilities. But I’m excited to get back out there.”
UM will host the 38th Lady Griz Classic on Saturday and Sunday. The field in the classic brings in teams somewhere in between the small school and highly-ranked teams the Lady Griz have played, which would allow Montana to get a better idea of where they stand. And in the middle of non-conference play when the games sometimes don’t feel like they count for much, it also gives the Lady Griz something to shoot for.
“It’s teams you don’t usually get to play,” explained Johnston. “So playing that first game, hopefully getting that win. And then being able to watch the other two teams. Having something at the end of the tournament that you are going for, with winning it, it’s just nice to have that at this point of time in the year.”
“It’s always nice to have that tournament format where you get to come in and watch a couple different teams play and have a championship and an actual winner of a tournament,” added Schweyen. “I think our community does a great job supporting it and it’s always well-received.”
Montana is 70-4 all-time in its Classic. The tournament starts with UC Davis versus Nevada at noon Saturday in Dahlberg Arena. Then the Lady Griz will take on Northern Illinois. The winners and losers will meet up for two more games on Sunday starting at noon.