MISSOULA -- Early in the 2019-20 women's basketball season, the Montana Lady Griz are off to a solid start. After a tough non-conference schedule where the Lady Griz played two top-25 ranked teams and came out with a 5-4 record, they opened Big Sky Conference play taking down two opponents on the road.
The Lady Griz beat Northern Arizona to open conference play on Saturday, followed by a win over Sacramento State on Monday. While McKenzie Johnston had a career game against NAU scoring 26 points and Emma Stockholm scored a career-high 21 points in the win over Sacramento State, it was sophomore Abby Anderson who carried Montana into the new year with a head of steam.
The second-year player from Hillsboro, Ore., has seen a sharp increase in time, and in the past week Anderson has blossomed into another inside scoring threat for Montana. Anderson's average minutes per game have gone up from 7.8 last year to 21.9 this season. With more time comes more scoring opportunities, and she's taken advantage.
"Being a main source for scoring is a new thing for me, but it's a lot of fun, I'm realizing. I'm excited. I am ready to keep going and trying to get better every game," said Anderson.
Anderson scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the win over Northern Arizona, then topped that performance two days later, recording 20 points and eight rebounds in the win over Sacramento State. Over the two-game stretch she averaged 17.5 points on 65 percent shooting and grabbed 8.5 rebounds. Those two performances earned Anderson the Big Sky Conference player of the week honor for the first time in her career.
"Just the people that have been coming up to me telling me that they have seen my hard work -- it's a great feeling to know that people see you work, and its paying off is a really good feeling," said the sophomore.
"Abby is just a kid who is beginning to come alive and get some confidence. It's crazy what can happen when people start believing and you get some confidence like that," said head coach Shannon Schweyen.
Schweyen added to that at practice on Wednesday, saying that Anderson and Stockholm are combining to bring a much-needed offensive presence in the paint -- something that's proven to be a must in certain games.
"Sac (State) is a team that pressures your guards and makes it tough for them to get much, therefore it was very important our bigs hurt them inside," said Schweyen. "NAU is a team that is particularly tall and had a lot of inside presence, so we really made a point of emphasis of trying to get the ball in the paint. So those were two teams where we really felt like we could have an edge and fortunately we took advantage of that."
The Lady Griz still have a ton of season ahead of them, but looking to the future Anderson knows this is a team that can see a lot of success before her time here is done.
"I have awesome teammates. I know we can accomplish a lot in my next two years, and we have awesome freshmen coming in, so there's a lot of great things to look forward to," said Anderson.