MISSOULA — The Montana Lady Griz opened their 2022-23 campaign with a close loss on Monday evening in Missoula, as UM fell to North Dakota State 65-63 at Dahlberg Arena.
The Lady Griz (0-1) led the entire first half, but the Bison (1-0) used a strong start to the second half to build a 45-35 advantage midway through the third quarter. Montana was tasked with coming back, and did so late in the fourth quarter after Haley Huard tied it 61-61 with 2:39 left in the game.
Sammy Fatkin made it 63-61 Lady Griz with under a minute to play, but the Bison responded as Elle Evans used a three-point play to give NDSU a 64-63 lead. Later, Evans went 1 for 2 at the free throw line to make it 65-63 with eight seconds remaining, and junior guard Gina Marxen's go-ahead 3-point attempt fell short as the Bison finished off the win.
Heaven Hamling finished with 19 points for NDSU while Evans had 10. The Bison shot 40.6% from the field and were 7 for 21 from 3-point range.
Marxen, a transfer from Idaho who played three years for the Vandals before sitting out last season, led UM with 21 points, including going 4 for 6 from deep, while Fatkin finished with 19 points on 9-for-26 shooting. Fatkin, a fifth-year guard who was granted an extension by the NCAA for one more season, returns after being one of UM's top scorers a season ago before injury forced her to miss nine of the final 11 games.
"I think the mindset is just to take this game and feel the emotions from it but also just learn from it and respond with it," Marxen said. "We have another game coming up and we have a lot of things we can fix so if we can learn from this one and use that moving forward, then that's great for us."
The Lady Griz shot 37.9% from the field, went 6 for 21 from deep and struggled at the free throw line, going 13 for 25. Fatkin, Marxen, Huard, Dani Bartsch and freshman Alex Pirog all were the starters for UM.
The Lady Griz relied heavily on their younger players with Pirog, a forward, playing 18 minutes and collecting seven rebounds, while freshman guard Mack Konig played 18 minutes and scored five points, and fellow freshman guard Libby Stump played 16 minutes and scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.
Huard, a sophomore guard, scored nine points, while Bartsch, a sophomore forward, played 17 minutes, scored two points and grabbed five rebounds. Sophomore forward Lisa Kiefer also made an impact off of the bench with two points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 14 minutes.
"I'm really proud of our fight," second-year Lady Griz head coach Brian Holsinger said. "We spaced them out and we drove them and we took advantage of our speed and so I liked our response to being down. I didn't like our execution and a lot of that is on me, honestly. It's early, it's so early and some of those situations at the end when you have a young team and different people in different spots and didn't execute at the end.
"Gina didn't get the shot that we wanted her to get. She obviously played a really efficient game and we wanted to get her the ball but didn't quite get it, just execution error and that's really on me, we just haven't had time to work on those things."
Montana was without senior forward Carmen Gfeller, a preseason All-Big Sky pick, in the game. Gfeller is recovering from a foot injury and is expected to be back soon.
UM's next game is on the road on Friday at Colorado State.