FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- McKenzie Johnston scored a season-high 26 points, Abby Anderson added a career-high 15, and the Montana Lady Griz defeated Northern Arizona 79-71 in their Big Sky Conference-opening women's basketball game on Saturday.
Johnston hit eight of 11 field goals, including a lone 3-pointer, while also knocking in nine of 11 free throws in the win, which saw UM lead by as many as 24 points. Anderson added a 5-for-8 performance, while connecting on five free throws.
Still NAU (3-7 overall, 0-1 Big Sky Conference), which is coached by former Havre High standout Loree Payne, furiously rallied in the fourth quarter, trimming the 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to only six in the final minute, but the Lady Griz held on for their first league win. Montana (6-4, 1-0) won its second game in a row and has now won four of five.
Montana also won its first conference game of the season for a third year in a row, though this was the first on the road during that stretch.
“We had great contributions from so many people,” Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen said in a UM release. “It was fun to watch them go out there and get after it from the start. We talked about how important each road game in league is going to be. I love they know what they want to do. They just never let up.”
Johnston added seven rebounds and three assists to her impressive stat line, while Anderson added nine rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks.
“Kenz had a monster of a game, just a monster of a game. She just does so much. She is such a great floor general for us,” said Schweyen. “Abby has arrived. She’s had some moments when she’s played well in stretches and done some nice things, but (Saturday) she looked like a player who wanted to score."
Anderson, a redshirt sophomore from Hillsboro, Ore., held a previous scoring high of 11 points during a November loss against Santa Clara. She is averaging 6.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Johnston, the former Helena Capital standout, leads the team with an average of 13.6 points per contest in her senior season. She also boasts the top shooting percentage after hitting half of her 98 attempts this winter.
Montana continues its conference-opening stretch on the road when it travels to Sacramento State (2-8, 0-1) for an 8 p.m. MST contest against the Hornets on Monday.