Vikings fight on, Lady Griz relegated to quarterfinals
March 1, 2012
For Portland State, it's one down, one to go. For Montana, it's a trip to the Big Sky Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Needing two wins in its final two regular season games to make next week's Big Sky tournament, Portland State took the first step Thursday night with a 60-52 victory over Montana at the Stott Center in Portland, Ore.
The Vikings (15-13, 7-8 BSC) can clinch the No. 6 seed to next week's six-team tournament at Pocatello, Idaho, if they win at second-place Northern Colorado (18-10, 10-5 BSC) Saturday.
The Bears will have plenty to play for as well. A win would give UNC the tournament's No. 2 seed for the second straight year and a bye to the tournament semifinals.
If Portland State loses Saturday, Sacramento State (12-17, 7-9 BSC) will round out the tournament field, and the Vikings, the preseason Big Sky favorites, will miss the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Montana (16-12, 9-6 BSC), which plays at Northern Arizona Saturday night, needed to sweep its two-game road trip to remain in contention for the tournament's No. 2 seed. Instead the Lady Griz will be forced to do what they did at last year's tournament: Come out of the quarterfinal round and win three games in three days if they want to advance to their 20th NCAA tournament.
The loss drops Montana into a tie for fourth with Montana State (17-10, 9-6 BSC).
The good news Thursday at the Stott Center was that Montana limited its eighth straight opponent to 60 or fewer points. The bad news was the Lady Griz had their worst shooting night in a month and a half, and even a solid defensive effort couldn't overcome it.
The teams played to a 26-26 halftime score, then Montana made just 7 of 31 (.226) shots in the second half.
PSU's Eryn Jones, the 2011 Big Sky MVP who was playing her final career home game, hit a jumper in the lane with 12:12 remaining to make it 38-36, and the Vikings would never give the lead back.
Montana ended up shooting 29.0 percent for the game, its lowest output since Jan. 19.
"You'd hope we'd be over that by this time of year, but we threw a 29 percent up there, and you're not going to win on the road when you do that," UM coach Robin Selvig said. "It was just one of those games where we couldn't make a shot.
"We did a good job defensively, and we had enough good looks in the second half to turn things around. We just never made enough baskets in a row to make a run. We didn't have very much offense. Katie was it."
Katie Baker, who is solidifying her spot on the All-Big Sky first team that gets announced early next week, had her third straight 20-point scoring game and another all-around gem.
She scored 24 points -- aided by a 10-for-10 effort from the line -- and grabbed nine rebounds, both game highs. She also matched a career high with five steals and blocked a pair of shots.
Montana shot 35.5 percent in the first half and forced 10 Portland State turnovers, and the back-and-forth half that had eight ties ended in a 27-27 deadlock.
Hill opened the second-half scoring with a 3-pointer, and Baker added a pair of free throws just seconds later to put Montana ahead 32-27.
A Baker jumper at the 15:53 mark made it 34-30, but the Lady Griz would go more than nine minutes until their next field goal.
Montana went 0 for 8 with four turnovers during that stretch, and that allowed Portland State, which also struggled offensively in the second half, to do just enough to build its winning margin.
De Boer finally broke the drought at the 6:43 mark when her 3-pointer made it 44-42.
Allison Greene knocked down a pair of three throws, and after Hill missed a three and De Boer missed the front end of a one-and-one, Courtney VanBrocklin hit two more free throws to make it 48-42.
Montana was never able to get within a possession of tying it the final six minutes.
Portland State shot just 29.6 percent in the second half on 8-of-27 shooting -- 34.7 percent for the game -- but the Vikings had a seven-point advantage from the line in the final 20 minutes, and that proved to be the difference.
PSU went 17 for 20 (.850) from the line in the second half, 23 for 26 (.885) for the game.
Jones led the Vikings with 17 points and three assists while playing 37 minutes.
Montana will play at Northern Arizona Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The other three league games Saturday -- Portland State at Northern Colorado, Montana State at Weber State, Eastern Washington at Idaho State -- all start at 2 p.m., so the Lady Griz will know exactly where things stand prior to their game against the Lumberjacks.
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