(Editor's note: University of Montana Media Release)
MISSUOLA -- The Montana women’s basketball team held an eight-point fourth-quarter lead and had the game’s final possession, but the Lady Griz fell at Idaho on Saturday afternoon, 52-51, when that last chance came up empty.
In a largely nonsensical game of wild ups and downs, Montana trailed by six at the half, outscored the Vandals 9-0 in the third quarter, held Idaho to 4-of-30 shooting from the arc and committed a single second-half turnover.
And still the game came down to the final possession.
Inbounding the ball in front of their own bench with 16.3 seconds to play and trailing by one, the Lady Griz got the ball to Gabi Harrington, who had already hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second half. She went for the win from the top of the key.
Her shot came up short, but there was still time for McKenzie Johnston to grab the offensive rebound and get off the potential game-winner, as difficult as it was for her to shoot it over her head and in a crowd.
Her shot missed and Idaho, despite going 5 for 26 in the second half, walked away with a one-point win.
“It’s always disappointing when you have that much effort and you don’t come out with the win,” said coach Shannon Schweyen, whose team has lost three of four to drop to 4-3 in league and into a tie for fourth place.
“This is a tough place to play and a tough place to win, and we certainly had our chances. It was one of those where so many little things came into play.”
Montana came out flying and jumped out to a 10-3 lead behind six early points from Emma Stockholm before the Lady Griz stalled, going more than four minutes without a field goal.
Idaho answered with 14 points over the final 4:25 of the opening period and led 17-11 at the first break.
Both teams would score 20 points in the second quarter, with a Gina Marxen 3-pointer just before the buzzer giving Idaho a 37-31 halftime lead.
None of what took place over the opening 20 minutes would hint at what was to come over the final 20.
Idaho would not score again until the fourth quarter, but Montana did not take advantage of the Vandals’ scoreless third period, going just 3 for 17 themselves.
“It was a heck of an effort by us coming out to start the second half,” said Schweyen, whose team had 12 turnovers in the first half, one in the second. “They were bound and determined to play better and do a good job on defense.
“We had things clicking. We were working well together. The effort was there without a doubt.”
But the big lead, which should have come after pitching a shutout for 10 minutes, wasn’t there. Montana led just 40-37 going into the fourth quarter.
Natalie Klinker, who led both teams with 17 points, broke Idaho’s scoreless drought on Idaho’s opening possession of the fourth quarter, making it 40-39.
That’s when Harrington hit a 3-pointer and 30 seconds later added a pull-up jumper in the lane. An Abby Anderson basket at the 7:04 mark gave Montana its largest lead of the game, 47-39.
The Lady Griz would close the game going 1 for 10 over the final seven minutes, 2 for 4 from the line, with just four more points scored.
The low-hanging fruit to pick and fret over and point to and put too much emphasis on, rather than the totality of what happened, would be the play with 39 seconds left, with Montana trailing by one.
The Lady Griz forced a rushed 3-pointer late in the shot clock and appeared to be on their way to the defensive rebound after the shot bounced off the rim.
But a whistle was blown, perhaps by an official who didn’t think the shot had hit the rim and believed it was a shot-clock violation. Play came to a stop.
Either the violation or the rebound would have given Montana the ball. After the officials talked it over, the inadvertent whistle resulted in a jump ball. And the arrow pointed Idaho’s way.
“That was huge. I’m not sure if it was an inadvertent whistle or what, but that was a big, big possession,” said Schweyen.
But Montana forced another Idaho miss and had the final possession. The options were to get the ball to Anderson in the post, where she could either score or get fouled.
Or get the ball to Harrington, who had the hot hand.
“We had a little back screen for Abby and then Gabi coming off a screen up top. Abby had been effective in the block, so we were looking to dump it into her,” said Schweyen.
“Kenzie did a great job going in there and getting the board. That’s the way it goes.”
It was an opportunity lost, because it’s not often you hold an Idaho team to 31.7 percent shooting and 52 points on its home floor.
It’s not often you hold Gina Marxen to eight points on 3-of-18 shooting and the Vandals to 4-of-30 shooting from the arc and triple-less in the second half.
But Idaho is tied atop the Big Sky in the loss column for a reason. Klinker had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and her sister, Lizzy, added her own double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Splash Sisters are gone. On this day the Klinkers were just as effective as Idaho defeated Montana in Moscow for the fourth straight time.
“I thought we did a really nice job for the most part on Marxen. We made it tough for her. But great teams have other people step up,” said Schweyen.
Stockholm finished with a team-high 16 points for Montana, which shot 21.2 percent in the second half, 30.6 for the game and scored its fewest points since a home loss to Arizona in November.
Montana will open a four-game home stand when its hosts Idaho State and Weber State at Dahlberg Arena next week.