(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
OGDEN, UT – Montana bounced back from a disappointing performance on Thursday with a 72-60 victory over Weber State on Saturday afternoon at Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Two days after shooting 25.9 percent and losing 50-34 at Idaho State, the Lady Griz (10-8, 5-4 BSC) hit a season-high nine 3-pointers, shot 46.4 percent and led the game’s final 32 minutes.
“We stayed together. We wanted to bounce back quickly and not be defined by that loss,” said Sammy Fatkin, who kept up her torrid shooting and was one of five starters in double figures.
“We win and lose together, so we knew it was important to have each other’s backs and pick everyone up today.”
It was a balanced box score at game’s end — Gabi Harrington’s 18 points at one end, Jace Henderson’s 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists at the other — but it was Fatkin who set the tone early.
She scored eight points in the first quarter, hitting all three of her shots, including two from the arc, to spark Montana to a 20-point opening period.
She hit two more triples in the second quarter as the Lady Griz built a nine-point lead, 32-23. Fatkin finished the game 4 for 8 from the arc, making her 10 for 18 from 3-point range the last four games.
“Those were big shots to get us going,” said coach Shannon Schweyen. “She’s just been shooting the ball really well lately. She’s been an awesome addition. She’s getting more and more comfortable and confident out there.”
Montana led 32-28 at the half and hit 5-of-7 shots early in the third quarter to build its lead to 15, 47-32, its largest lead in a game since facing Southern Utah at the end of December.
Emma Stockholm scored five points during the surge and Harrington scored twice. Henderson assisted on two of the baskets, Fatkin another.
“This was just an amazing team effort,” said Schweyen, who played each of her starters at least 31 minutes. “We knocked outside shots down. That’s the difference between games like Thursday night and tonight. When you’re finally putting some of them in the hole, it’s 100 percent better.”
After going 3 for 21 from 3-point range on Thursday night, which made Montana 24.2 percent from the arc through eight league games, the Lady Griz connected on nine of their 21 attempts from distance against the Wildcats.
That, too, was a collective effort. In addition to Fatkin’s 4-for-8 performance, Stockholm went 3 for 5, Harrington 2 for 3.
As a freshman two years ago, that shot was Harrington’s go-to. She took 72 of her 131 attempts that season from the arc.
She’s been much more selective as a redshirt sophomore, preferring instead to feast on mid-range pull-ups and strong finishes near the basket. And it’s been working. But it’s almost like she forgot that she can be deadly from distance as well.
“Gabi was back,” said Schweyen. “We talked to her at length, Hey, do you remember your freshman year when all you did was shoot threes? Now that you have this other part of your game, let’s meld them together. It was great to see her knock down the outside jumper again.”
After Montana went up 47-32 with four minutes to go in the third quarter, Weber State answered, scoring 11 straight points to make it 47-43.
Six of the Wildcats’ 11 points came in the paint, where they finished with 26 for the game. It helped partially offset a 6-for-23 effort from the 3-point line.
“We did a good job for the most part of locating their kids,” said Schweyen. “Their bigs hurt us a little bit in the paint, but you have to give them something.”
The lead was six, 51-45, early in the fourth quarter when Montana had the ball and was facing a shot clock that was under 10 seconds. It was a time for someone to rise up and reestablish a more comfortable margin.
Harrington was all over it, taking advantage of a soft defense to drill a 3-pointer to make it 54-45. She did it again three minutes later, making it 62-52 and sparking an 8-0 run that put the game out of reach.
Facing another collapsing defense — and why wouldn’t she after scoring 31 seven days ago on 13-of-17 shooting — Henderson could only get off five shots, but she made all five and also had a game-high seven assists.
“They were covering down big on Jace early, and we had to adjust,” said Schweyen. “She doesn’t have to be the answer for everything. We have other great players. We talked about turning it and getting some movement. If the first option isn’t there, let’s make them work.
“And Jace just has such great instincts passing. She made some beautiful feeds out of double teams. She has good vision and good awareness, and she’s comfortable with the ball in her hands. It was a heck of a game by her.”
Led by Henderson’s perfect shooting — okay, she did go 0 for 2 from the line — and Fatkin’s 6-for-11 performance, Montana’s starters shot 51.0 percent.
Fatkin finished with 16 points and four assists, Stockholm 15 points and three assists and McKenzie Johnston 11 points.
“It was a wonderful feeling to come back after Thursday and put some points up on the board,” said Schweyen, whose team will now turn its attention to Montana State. The Lady Griz will face the Bobcats next Saturday in Bozeman.
Montana State lost 61-43 at Idaho State on Saturday, getting outscored 34-14 in the second half.
In other league games on Saturday, Idaho defeated Portland State 80-78 in Moscow in the first of two meetings between the Big Sky favorites, Northern Colorado held off Northern Arizona 63-53 in Greeley and Sacramento State surprised Eastern Washington in Cheney 73-70.