Lady Griz fall to Lumberjacks, drop to fifth
March 3, 2012
Montana struggled from the field early and the free throw line late, and it cost the Lady Griz Saturday night at Flagstaff, Ariz. Northern Arizona shot 52.0 percent and gave Montana its first two-game losing streak since early December with a 74-70 win in the final regular-season game for both teams.
The Lady Griz (16-13, 9-7 BSC) had a chance to tie for third in the Big Sky Conference standings with a win but instead dropped to fifth, the program's lowest regular-season finish since the 1998-99 season.
Montana will take the No. 5 seed into next week's Big Sky tournament at Pocatello, Idaho, and face No. 4 Montana State Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the quarterfinal round.
Montana defeated Montana State (18-10, 10-6 BSC) twice during the regular season, 61-54 at Bozeman and 77-59 at Missoula.
The Lady Griz were locked into the No. 4-5 game against the Bobcats before Saturday night's contest even tipped off, and it led to a languid start.
Montana made just one basket in the first 11 minutes and opened the game shooting 4.8 percent: 1 make, 20 misses.
Despite the Lady Griz' slow start, Northern Arizona was not able to build more than a 13-point lead, and Montana's work on the offensive glass got it back into the game.
The Lady Griz grabbed 16 offensive rebounds in the first half and turned those into 13 more shot attempts than NAU. The Lumberjacks shot 58.3 percent in the first half, but Montana's extra possessions allowed it to close the gap to 36-31 by the half.
"This was the first time (this season) we clearly weren't ready to go at the start of the game," UM coach Robin Selvig said. "When it's the last game and you're not playing for much, this kind of thing can happen even though you'd like to think it wouldn't.
"We didn't have energy, and mentally we weren't into it. It looked like we were going to get drilled, but then we finally got going and started battling."
Katie Baker scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, and her jumper at the 12:59 mark gave Montana what would be its only lead of the game, 46-45.
NAU's Amanda Frost answered, and that started a 13-4 run that put the Lumberjacks up 58-50 with just over nine minutes to play.
Montana never regained the lead but was not without opportunities.
Down two with 4:09 to play the Lady Griz went 1 for 2 from the line. Down three with 3:25 remaining Montana again went 1 for 2 from the line.
Clinging to a two-point lead with two and a half minutes left, Northern Arizona used its defense to convert a pair of Montana turnovers into easy fastbreak layups just nine seconds apart, and two Katie Pratt free throws again stretched the lead to eight, 68-60.
NAU followed with another turnover, and Montana's best chance to tie it was a Torry Hill three from the top of the key at the 1:13 mark. It was off the mark, as were 13 of her 15 shots for the game.
Montana got the ball back after a missed free throw, and Kellie Cole got to the line with 37 seconds remaining. She missed both, and NAU's Amy Patton put down a pair with 25 seconds left and it was not a one-possession game again.
The Lady Griz went 18 for 30 (.600) from the line for the game, leaving 12 costly points off the scoreboard.
"Had we made just some of those we could have had the lead," Selvig added. "We dug a big hole, but we should have gotten ourselves out of it.
"We didn't turn it over, and we had a rebounding advantage, so there were a lot of ways we could have won this game after such a miserable start."
Once again Baker was excellent with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, her fourth straight 20-point scoring game, and for the second time on this road trip her teammates did not contribute like they'll need to if Montana wants to make a three-day run at next week's tournament.
Montana's other four starters shot 25.6 percent. At the same time the Lady Griz put up the type of numbers that would lead to a win most games. They had 20 assists on their 23 baskets, their best ratio of the season, and their 20-to-11 assist-to-turnover ratio was their third best of the season.
Montana also kept NAU's leading scorer in check -- Patton finished with just nine points -- but the Lumberjacks (9-20, 4-12 BSC) had four other players reach double figures.
Tyler Stephens-Jenkins led Northern Arizona with 14 points.
De Boer, who had a sparkling seven-assists, three-steals, one-turnover line finished with 11 points before fouling out late. Jordan Sullivan had 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals, and Cole came off the bench to finish with nine points and four assists.
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