Ali Hurley had six points off the bench Thursday
March 8, 2012
Montana State went 6 for 10 from 3-point range in the second half to break open a tight game, then held on down the stretch for a 68-59 victory over Montana Thursday night in a quarterfinal game of the Big Sky Conference tournament at Pocatello, Idaho.
The Bobcats (19-10), seeded No. 4, will face No. 2 Northern Colorado Friday at 5 p.m. in the tournament semifinals. No. 1 Idaho State will host No. 6 Sacramento State at 7:30 p.m. The Hornets advanced with a 71-61 upset of No. 3 Eastern Washington in Thursday's opening quarterfinal game.
Montana shot 25.9 percent in the first half Thursday night to fall behind 26-23 at the break and could not generate enough offense in the second half to keep pace with Montana State, which shot 48.4 percent in the second half and scored 42 points.
The Lady Griz finished at 30.2 percent for the game, their 15th time in 30 games shooting below 35 percent.
"It was one of those games that we've had a lot of this year where we simply don't make shots," UM coach Robin Selvig said. "It's hard to win if you don't get close to that 40-percent range, and there were just too many nights this season when we couldn't do it."
Despite a first half with poor shooting and 11 turnovers, Montana was down just three at the break. The Bobcats had problems of their own in the opening 20 minutes, shooting 33.3 percent with 10 turnovers.
In the teams' first two games this season, both Lady Griz victories, it was Montana that made second-half runs that turned those games in their favor. Thursday it was Montana State.
The Bobcats knocked down four of their first five shots in the second half and hit four 3-pointers in the opening seven minutes to stretch the lead to 11, 46-35.
Montana State kept a lead of at least seven points the next 10 minutes and went up a game-high 14 points when Rachel Semansky hit a pair of free throws with just 3:25 remaining that made it a comfortable 62-48 margin.
But Montana used some suddenly hot shooting and a handful of Montana State turnovers to score 10 straight points in a span of just two minutes that cut the lead to four.
Ashley Albert gave Montana the gift it needed - possession of the ball - when she turned it over in the backcourt just four seconds after De Boer's free throws, but she made up for it when she blocked a Baker jumper that could have cut the lead to two.
Baker grabbed her own miss and appeared to throw the ball off a Montana State player's leg while Baker was falling out of bounds, but the referees pointed the other direction, and Albert drilled a dagger with 48 seconds left that made it 64-58.
"I thought we were going to be okay (at the half) if we could put a run together," Selvig said. "That's how our games against these guys have gone this season.
"But this time they put the run together. They hit some threes, and they were able to build a 10-point lead.
"We made a good run. I was almost surprised when we hit those shots late because we had already missed so many. We finished strong, but we had already dug too deep of a hole."
Baker led Montana with 19 points and 12 rebounds, her 12th career double-double.
Lost amidst the late-game rally was a career milestone. Baker's two free throws at the 2:45 mark that started the near comeback gave her 1,000 career points, making her the 28th player in Lady Griz history to reach that mark.
But Baker was just 7 for 19, one of a number of off nights that cost the Lady Griz their season. Montana's starters shot 29.8 percent, and its bench only shot 31.3 percent.
Sullivan finished with 10 points, De Boer and Torry Hill nine each.
Montana State's three-player wrecking crew of Albert, Semansky and Katie Bussey were the difference-makers and the reason the Bobcats will be playing Friday night and the Lady Griz will be bussing back to Missoula Friday morning.
Albert had 17 points - 15 in the second half - six rebounds, five assists and three blocks. She shot 7 for 10 and hit three of her four 3-point attempts.
Semansky matched Baker's double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, and Bussey added 18 points and a game-high six assists.
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