MISSOULA – A perfect start to Big Sky Conference play hit a speed bump for the Montana men’s and women’s basketball teams on Saturday. Both fell to Portland State and dropped to 3-1 in league play.
They both can’t wait to shoot for redemption Thursday night.
The Lady Griz came out flat in Portland. They were playing their fourth game in eight days and less than 48 hours after a double-overtime win in Sacramento. But the team and coaches did not believe the schedule played into their early struggles.
The first quarter has given UM problems in other games this season, and the Vikings came out red hot, taking a 20-point lead after only 10 minutes.
“I feel like we didn’t come out for the start of that game as ready as we should have,” said junior guard Taylor Goligoski. “The rest of the game we were there with them, the last three quarters. It was the first quarter there that really killed us.”
“We’ve got to learn how to somehow be able to adjust to moments like that,” added head coach Shannon Schweyen. “There is going to be teams that come out and blitz you a little bit, and you’ve got to be able to respond. I thought we did, just a little bit too late. We had a much better second half. We did a much better job defensively.”
Montana will look for a quick start with Eastern Washington in town. The struggling Eagles have won only two games this season, but they have won four straight against the Lady Griz. They’ll tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday in Dahlberg Arena.
Meanwhile, the Grizzly men didn’t finish versus the Vikings, blowing a seven-point lead in the final minutes before falling in overtime.
Star guard Ahmaad Rorie said everyone, including himself, played soft. That’s something you can rarely say about the Grizzlies during their success of the past two years.
This week, Montana finally got a chance to focus on itself for a change. The schedule filled with travel, a holiday break, and then four quick games to start conference play only left time to prepare for the next opponent. So taking some time to look at the Grizzlies could make a big difference.
“I think Saturday what you saw was a team that just hadn’t gotten back to the basics,” said head coach Travis DeCuire. “So for us, we got a chance to go back and watch film (Monday), and see how important the details are and how desperate we need to be to get back to those. We’ve got enough upperclassmen that it should be something that we can accomplish, but it’s got to be important to everyone of us individually and collectively.”
“(We’re) real hungry. Coming off a loss, you just want to get back out there,” said Rorie. “You want these practices to kind of go by fast, so you can get back on track and get a win.”
Montana and Eastern Washington collide for the first time since the Big Sky championship game last March. The Griz won that showdown but lost when they traveled to Cheney last year. The 3-1 Griz and 1-3 Eagles also tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday.