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Montana Lady Griz struggles continue in loss at Northern Arizona

Posted at 10:24 PM, Mar 04, 2019

(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – It was another case of the Mondays for the Montana women’s basketball team.

Seven days after giving up 40 points to Savannah Smith in a 79-61 loss at Northern Colorado, the Lady Griz allowed Jacey Bailey to go wild in Flagstaff.

The transfer from Florida Atlantic, who was coming off a 23-point game in Saturday’s home win over Montana State, went 7 for 9 from 3-point range and scored a season-high 31 points.

Sparked by Bailey’s 15 first-quarter points, the Lumberjacks (11-17, 7-12 BSC) led 29-10 after 10 minutes and never trailed, winning 82-65 to snap a 12-game losing streak against Montana (12-15, 7-11 BSC).

“The disappointing thing to me was that she was the focus of our scouting report, the focus of who we wanted to be guarding, and she got seven threes on us,” said coach Shannon Schweyen.

“We didn’t do a good job locating her. She just got way too many easy ones in both the zone and man. She made us pay.”

The 3-point shot has been Montana’s undoing all season — both the Lady Griz’ lack of scoring from the arc and their difficulty in defending the deep ball — and it proved costly in the first quarter against the Lumberjacks, who have won five of their last eight games.

Northern Arizona hit three 3-pointers in the game’s first two and half minutes to jump out to a 9-0 lead and hit five triples in the opening period to build a 19-point lead after 10 minutes.

It was the fifth time this season Montana has given up 29 points in a quarter.

“We’ve got to find a way to defend better,” said Schweyen. “We’re giving up way too many points. We’re letting best scorers get too many. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and figure this out.”

Not unexpectedly, Montana didn’t go quietly into the night. A lot of that was because of the play of its bench, which contributed 26 points, the most for the Lady Griz reserves in more than two months.

Abby Anderson scored a season-high 10 points. Jordyn Schweyen knocked down three 3-pointers to match her season high of nine points, and Carmen Gfeller and Kylie Frohlich both scored as well.

“That was the bright spot of the game. Every girl who came in did great. It was the best our bench has played in a long time,” said Schweyen, whose team will host Portland State on Thursday, Sacramento State on Saturday, travel to Boise on Sunday, then open the Big Sky tournament seven days from now.

“This is the time, when you’re playing a lot of minutes, that you want to keep your kids as fresh as you can. Our young girls came in and gave us some breaks.

“As we head into the tournament, we’re going to need some depth and people stepping up and giving us some breaks if we’re going to have any sort of chance to make a run next week.”

Anderson looked nothing at all like the player who was limited to just a few minutes per game for much of January and February. On Monday she was a presence, both offensively and defensively.

She went 6 for 6 from the line, part of her team’s 17-for-18 performance, and had four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

“Abby’s really been coming on as of late. She’s playing better and better all the time,” said Schweyen. “She had some beautiful feeds, she had some great blocks and a bunch of boards. She was looking to score. It was great to see.”

What Anderson patrolling the paint should have meant was her teammates better able to stick to shooters. Like the long line of Montana shot-blockers before her, she doesn’t need a lot of help in the post.

But Northern Arizona still went 10 for 20 from the arc, improving on Southern Utah’s 10-of-22 effort on Saturday, a 71-56 Thunderbird win.

“It’s nice when you feel you can go one-on-one down in the post and you don’t have to worry about covering down,” said Schweyen. “That should have given us better builds to get to shooters.”

Montana twice cut Northern Arizona’s lead to less than 10 in the second quarter, but a late Peyton Carroll basket gave the Lumberjacks a 44-34 lead at the break.

The comeback continued in the third quarter, with Montana pulling within five, 49-44, on a Jace Henderson basket in the paint.

But Bailey scored four points in an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 13, and NAU would lead by 10 or more the rest of the game to pick up its first win over the Lady Griz since March 2012.

Henderson and Gabi Harrington both scored 12 points for Montana, which turned the ball over a season-low six times.

Northern Arizona shot 53.2 percent, the best an opponent has shot this season against Montana.

“We got off to a slow start, and they got off to a hot one,” said Schweyen. “I was proud of the way we crawled back into it. We battled back, but we couldn’t get enough stops on the other end.”

Montana is still in seventh place in the Big Sky standings, but Northern Arizona, whose only remaining game is on Saturday, at home against Northern Colorado, is now even with the Lady Griz in the win column.

Montana will host Portland State, which defeated the Lady Griz 78-60 back in early January, at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m. on Senior Day for Henderson.

Montana outlasted the Hornets on their home floor on Jan. 3, 88-86 in double overtime.