MISSOULA — Injuries are once again a central theme for the Montana women's basketball team.

It's been the same way all three seasons under head coach Shannon Schweyen. The Lady Griz have lost four guards to injury in 2018-19 and the best they can do for the remainder of the winter is try to make lemonade out of lemons.

"We really do have a young team again," said Schweyen, whose squad will try to end a three-game skid when it plays host to Big Sky Conference doormat Weber State Thursday at 7 p.m.

"Our entire bench is freshmen. When you have young kids like that, there's always room to improve. We've just got to make sure we don't quit improving and we need to address these issues that need to be cleaned up. You roll up your sleeves and go to work on those things."

Thursday represents a prime opportunity for Montana to reverse its recent trend. Not only did the Lady Griz beat the Wildcats (5-18) late last month in Utah, Weber State has struggled since mid-January, losing five of six games.

"We had a good one against them last time," Schweyen said, alluding to her team's 26-for-56 shooting in a 72-60 win on Jan. 26. "I was proud of the way the ladies responded after a tough night offensively (two days earlier) at Idaho State.

"We knocked down (nine) threes and played pretty well. That was one of our better team wins as far as contributions from multiple people."

Perhaps the best news for Montana (10-11, 5-7) is the team is only 1 1/2 games out of fifth place in the Big Sky Conference standings. The team right in front of the Lady Griz, Montana State, fell on hard times last week with a blowout loss at Idaho and a season-ending knee injury to its best player, Claire Lundberg.

A top-5 finish would secure a first-round bye for Montana in the Big Sky tourney, which starts March 11 in Boise, Idaho.

"We keep reminding them that regardless of what happens and regardless of where we end up in the standings, Boise is what's important," Schweyen said.

"That last spot is certainly up for grabs with a lot of games left for everybody. We are happy to end that five-game road (stint) and have a chance to be back home a little bit. That certainly adds to some normality in your life."

Of immediate concern to Schweyen is her team's anemic performances on the boards the past few games. Rebounding has been a point of emphasis in practice.

"We've been out-rebounded three games in a row," the coach noted. "We're a better rebounding team than we're showing right now.

"We've got kids playing a lot of minutes and sometimes fatigue can set in. Maybe you're not quite as disciplined to block out every time. But I do feel like we're a better rebounding team than we've been."

Five of Montana's eight remaining regular-season games will be played at Dahlberg Arena. But the level of competition will spike after Thursday, with home games against Idaho State Saturday and Montana State a week later.

Notes: The four Lady Griz sidelined by injuries include guards Sophia Stiles (knee), Taylor Goligoski (knee), Madi Schoening (foot) and Katie Mayhue (foot). Stiles is physically ready to play, but she elected to redshirt this winter because she was on the mend in October, November and part of December ... Montana has three guards in its starting lineup in McKenzie Johnston, Gabi Harrington and Sammy Fatkin. The only other guard who has seen marked playing time and is currently available is true freshman Jordyn Schweyen ... Weber State's best player is 5-foot-3 guard Jaiaimoni Welch-Coleman, who averages 16.6 points per game. She scored 21 points and dished out eight assists in an 89-73 home win over UM last season. 

Bill Speltz is the Deputy Sports Editor of the Missoulian. Email him at bill.speltz@406mtsports.com.

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