(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics press release)
MOSCOW, Idaho.—Montana’s 14-point lead late in the third quarter on Monday afternoon at Idaho, part of a 29-8 run when almost everything was clicking for the Lady Griz, proved to be the start of its undoing.
The Vandals, too good to just go away, scored the final six points of the third quarter, then put up 24 in the fourth to storm back for a 70-69 victory, Montana’s second one-point loss on the road in the last 12 days.
The Lady Griz (16-9, 9-7 BSC) had the game’s final possession but the team’s semi-contested, semi-rushed shot from the 3-point line at the buzzer hit off the backboard, off the rim and to the floor.
“We lost it at the end of the third quarter,” said Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger, whose team built a 54-40 lead after trailing by nine in the first quarter.
Over the final 94 seconds of the third quarter, it was Beyonce Bea, the Big Sky Conference preseason MVP, 6, Montana 0. What had been 14 was now a more manageable eight, and that altered everything.
“We were so excited about hitting some shots and having a lead that we relaxed,” Holsinger added. “That’s the most important part of the lesson. You can’t relax, especially on the road. You’ve got to be mentally tough and disciplined.
“You finish the third quarter strong, the fourth quarter is different.”
Sophia Stiles, who would combine with Carmen Gfeller and Abby Anderson to score 50 of their team’s 69 points, scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to up the lead back to 10, and Kyndall Keller did the same thing a minute later on a pair of free throws to make it 58-48.
Over the final 7:15 of the fourth quarter, Idaho would close 9 for 12 and go a perfect 3 for 3 from the arc, with Louise Forsyth scoring 13 of her 19 points in the final period.
“They took it to us in the fourth quarter. On the road you have to get stops. Teams are going to go on runs, especially a good offensive team like Idaho,” said Holsinger. “You have to really focus in, and we made too many mistakes that allowed them to get on a roll.
“You have to be tough enough to buckle down and get a stop here and a stop there. We just didn’t execute, and it cost us.”
Montana went up 64-63 on a Stiles basket with 3:03 to go. It would be its final lead of the game.
Forsyth answered and Tiana Johnson hit a big 3-pointer with 2:01 to go that made it a four-point game, 68-64.
The Lady Griz went 5 for 6 from the line over the next 90 seconds and made it a 70-69 game when Keller hit two free throws with 34 seconds left.
Montana opted to play out the ensuing 30-second shot clock, and the Lady Griz got what they wanted, a wild shot that Anderson easily blocked with four seconds left.
Montana dribbled out of the defensive rebound, which wiped out the team’s chance to call an immediate timeout and advance the ball.
Instead the Lady Griz got a timeout and an inbounds pass near midcourt with 2.2 seconds left. Stiles passed the ball in and got a quick return pass. She got a decent shot at the buzzer, but it was off the mark.
“I thought it was a good look. We executed pretty well there,” said Holsinger.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first quarter, which ended with Idaho holding a 22-21 lead. Montana led 33-32 at the half after closing the period on an 8-0 run.
The good times extended into the third quarter, with Montana going 7 for 11 to open the second half, 4 of 7 from the arc.
Carmen Gfeller, on her way to a team-high 20 points, hit three 3-pointers in a span of 64 seconds to push the lead to 14.
“There were definitely some positives,” said Holsinger, whose team was without Sammy Fatkin for the sixth consecutive game. “We’re clicking on offense better than we have.”
But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Idaho, which closed the game on a 30-15 run over the final 11:34 to snap Montana’s winning streak at two and avenge Thursday’s 76-73 loss in Missoula.
“It’s just learning how to win consistently on the road. It’s a cultural thing. It’s disappointing but we’ll learn from it. You have to go through tough losses and hopefully hurt enough to change,” said Holsinger.
Gfeller finished with 20 points, her high game since scoring 21 against Seattle, and added 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season, the seventh of her career.
Anderson added 16 points and three blocks, giving her 200 for her career. Stiles finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, making her 18 for 31 in two games this season against Idaho.
Katerina Tsineke added eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and six rebounds. Montana’s other guards were 1 for 13.
“Without Sammy, we have to have other guards step up and make some baskets. Today we really didn’t have that,” said Holsinger. “Until Sammy comes back, somebody has to step up.”
Bea finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal, Forsyth added 19 points, five days after putting up 29 against the Lady Griz.
Montana was +12 on the boards but also had 16 turnovers to Idaho’s seven, which allowed the Vandals to take 11 more shots and win despite the Lady Griz shooting 46.3 percent.
Montana will host Southern Utah on Thursday at 7 p.m., Montana State on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the team’s final home games of the season.