Dani Bartsch, Montana Lady Griz shoot past Montana State in 72-50 win

Lady Griz vs. Bobcats
Posted at 3:45 PM, Feb 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-17 21:20:01-05

MISSOULA — The dichotomy between the Montana and Montana State women's basketball offenses couldn't have been more pronounced Saturday at Dahlberg Arena.

The Lady Griz lead the Big Sky Conference in 3-point shooting ,and they sank 14 of 27 3s in a 72-50 rout of the Bobcats. Montana State, which ranks last in the Big Sky in 3-point shooting, was just 4 of 13 from 3-point range.


Like when the teams met earlier this season in Bozeman — a 64-55 Bobcat win — Montana got out to a hot start Saturday, quickly building an 11-2 lead in the first quarter behind the strong play of Dani Bartsch and Gina Marxen.

Unlike the first meeting, though, Montana kept its foot on the pedal, building the lead to as many as 16 points in the second quarter and 26 in the fourth. The Lady Griz never trailed.

"Once you get our offense and we're moving and all five of us are touching the ball and we're just getting into the flow of the game, it's really fun," said Marxen, who made two first-quarter 3s.

Bartsch continued what seems inevitably to be an all-conference campaign, dominating the game on both ends of the floor in the first half. She had 14 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), three rebounds, two assists and three blocks in the first 20 minutes. The 6-foot-2 junior from Helena also drew a charge that took points off the board for the Bobcats and affected numerous other plays with her length.

"She's unbelievable honestly," Montana freshman Macey Huard said of Bartsch. "I've never played with someone that's just so efficient as her — like rebounds, blocks, she's everywhere at once. So, getting to play with her this year and just look up to her, she's a great player. Even if she's not scoring, she's affecting the game in a lot of other ways."

"I'm so proud of Dani," Marxen added. "She's grown so much in the two years I've played with her, and when she's a threat like that offensively, it's a lot hard for teams to be able to double team and help so much. I just love when she's playing aggressive. And she does so much for our team, not only offensively, defensively, but jsut with her voice and her leadership. She's a fun person to play with."

Marxen had 11 points in the first half and finished with 14. Mack Konig also had 14 points, and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw added 12. Bartsch was named the player of the game and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal. As a team, Montana had 18 assists on its 26 made field goals.

Montana State, meanwhile, struggled offensively against an inspired Montana defense. The Bobcats made just 20 of 52 field goals in the game and never seemed to get into an offensive rhythm, save for a 7-0 run in the second quarter to get the game back within single digits by halftime.

"We know this team and they know us, and being able to take away what players want to do the most was a big key for us," Marxen said. "And being able to shut down key players for them and make them take tough shots was really our goal."

The Bobcats came out ice cold in the third quarter but still managed to keep within striking distance until late in the period. A Katelynn Limardo 3-pointer brought Montana State within 47-38, but the Lady Griz closed the quarter with a 9-0 spurt to take a comfortable 56-38 lead to the fourth.

"That's the Dahlberg factor, right? So, if you give them a little bit of momentum and there's a big play, the crowd's going to recognize that, so when you call your timeout to regroup the kids, it gets even louder. This is a great atmosphere," said Montana State coach Tricia Binford.

"Obviously when you have this rivalry game in the state, nobody has it like us, so those things are exciting, but those momentum swings are big. We just didn't have enough."

The Bobcats didn't shoot their first free throw until early in the fourth quarter and scored just 21 points in the second half.

Sophomore forward Marah Dykstra shined brightest for Montana State, tallying 13 points and nine rebounds. Taylor Janssen had 10 points.

With the win, Montana (17-7 overall, 9-4 Big Sky) takes sole possession of third place in the Big Sky Conference standings with just five regular-season games remaining. The Lady Griz, who have now won six of their past eight games, are on the road for two games next week, starting with Sacramento State on Feb. 22.

"You start looking too far ahead at all, and if you look at the scores in our league, you start looking ahead at all and anything can happen in this league, especially on the road or wherever," said Montana coach Brian Holsinger.

"We're really just continuing to get better at this point. We want to play our best down the stretch. We feel like we're starting to play better. We have some people coming along. ... We just want to continue to get better. Good things will happen to us if we continue to do that."

Montana State (14-12, 8-5) is still fourth in the Big Sky standings. The Bobcats play at Portland State on Feb. 22.