MISSOULA — The Montana Lady Griz bounced back from Thursday's disappointing loss to Northern Arizona with a 82-60 victory over Northern Colorado on Saturday in front of 2,314 fans at Dahlberg Arena.
While the Lady Griz started Thursday's game off flawlessly against the Lumberjacks before letting it slip away, it was the complete opposite on Saturday, as the Bears took a 11-0 lead by the first media timeout just five minutes into the game.
However, out of the timeout UM responded with a 9-0 run, and by the end of the first quarter they grabbed a 15-14 lead after a jumper from Carmen Gfeller.
"Those moments are the time to be calm," Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger said. "You're just kind of like, OK, we got some good looks we just didn't hit them. And some of it had to do with the last 48 hours. There was a lot of defensive talk. We didn't talk about offense much. We literally talked about defense and becoming a team with a defensive identity. That's the way you win, that's the way Robin's (Selvig) teams won.
"That's who we want to become and it's taken us a little bit longer. Today was a giant step forward in that. We made things hard for them all game long and so I'm really encouraged by that."
A layup by Sammy Fatkin to make it 19-18 gave UM the lead for good in the second quarter, and after finding their stroke from deep, the Lady Griz led 37-25 at halftime and never looked back.
Gfeller finished the game with 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting including three 3-pointers. The senior helped put the game away with 15 of her points coming in the second half.
Gina Marxen added 16 points and four assists while Keeli Burton-Oliver poured in 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds and added two blocks. Fatkin finished with eight points and four assists as well.
"I'm just so proud of my team," Burton-Oliver said. "We've been waiting to show everyone what we can do. We're a very talented group and today I just feel like we put all of the pieces together."
UM (6-9, 2-2 Big Sky) started the game shooting 0 for 9 from the field and 0 for 6 from deep. However, after the first media timeout, the Lady Griz finished the first half shooting a scorching 16 for 22 from the field while netting 4 of 8 triples after that slow start.
"It feels really good (to get the win) especially after last game," Burton-Oliver said. "We really wanted to get it back together and make a big defensive effort as a group and I really think we were able to do that and execute what we wanted to and get the win."
For the game, the Lady Griz shot 53.4% from the field and went 9 for 24 from deep. As a team UM racked up 17 assists and also forced 12 turnovers as they utilized a full-court press that the Bears struggled with all game.
"We had some deep talks the last 24 hours about how we have to identify as a defensive-oriented team and that takes every individual to do that, and so I'm proud of how they responded to that," Holsinger said.
Hannah Simental led the Bears (8-7, 1-3) with 19 points and Aniah Hall added 16. Northern Colorado shot at a 46.9% rate from the field but went just 3 for 18 from deep.
The Lady Griz are back on the road this coming week and will play at Weber State (4-11, 0-3) on Thursday and at Idaho State (8-6, 3-0) on Saturday.