MISSOULA — The Montana Lady Griz welcomed No. 24 Washington State to Missoula on Tuesday evening, and the Cougars used a strong third quarter to run away from the Lady Griz down the stretch to win 61-49.
Bella Murekatete had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead Washington State (4-0) while Charlisse Leger-Walk added 19 points. The Cougars shot 37.5% from the field and were 3 for 14 from 3-point range.
Missoula Hellgate graduate Alex Covill, a freshman for the Cougars, also contributed with five blocks, three rebounds and two points in 12 minutes off of the bench.
Carmen Gfeller led the Lady Griz (0-2) with 10 points and nine rebounds. MJ Bruno, Gina Marxen and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw each scored eight points while Dani Bartsch grabbed 11 boards. UM shot 33.9% from the field and 4 for 19 from deep.
"We battled hard, we just didn't execute offensively and make some shots that we might've," UM head coach Brian Holsinger said. "I'm encouraged. This is a long season. I like how we didn't quit and we're still figuring things out."
The score was 30-25 at halftime as UM hung tough with the Cougars. But Washington State out-scored Montana 21-10 in the third quarter and never looked back.
"It's hard when you have those lapses to get out of that hole but it's something that we're working on," Bruno said. "We're going to continue to get better at it. It's just little things with teams like this if you mess up, you have to be on it so just learning if we mess up, how do we get a stop, how do we score, but I'm really proud and encouraged by our team. These things we're going to fix."
It was similar to UM's opener against Gonzaga where the Lady Griz started strong but faded down the stretch. But to start the season off against two regional opponents that are strong tests, UM has showed potential, it's just about getting to that complete game and seeing this group gel.
"We're early in the season, we're a work in progress," Holsinger said. "But to hold this team to 60, I would've thought we'd have a chance to win holding them in the 60's. But we just didn't put the ball in basket tonight like I feel we can. I think come December and January we're going to be a pretty good team."
UM is off until Monday, Nov. 20 when they play at Grand Canyon University.