An icy-cold start set the Montana Lady Griz down a slippery path to their fourth-straight loss Monday night.
Northern Arizona, which rallied late to beat Montana State on Saturday, led UM from start to finish in posting an 82-65 win in front of a sparse crowd at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona. Sophomore guard/forward Jacey Bailey had a career night for the Lumberjacks with 31 points.
"We just didn't do a good job locating her," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio. "She got way too many easy ones in the zone and man. We lost her too much and she made us pay."
With the loss, the Lady Griz fell to 12-15 overall, 7-11 in Big Sky Conference play. Northern Arizona moved within a half-game of Montana in the league standings at 7-12 (11-17 overall).
NAU and Bailey, a transfer from Florida Atlantic who sat out last season, set the tone in the first quarter. The Lumberjacks built a 29-10 lead behind 15 points by the 6-foot Bailey and a 12-for-21 shooting effort from the field as a team.
"We've got to find a way to defend better," Schweyen said. "We're giving up way too many points. We're letting best scorers get way too many. We have to go back to the drawing board a little bit and figure this out."
The Lady Griz spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.
True freshman Jordyn Schweyen came off the bench and hit three 3-point shots as Montana shaved its deficit to 44-34 at halftime. Teammate Jace Henderson made a put-back shot that pulled the Lady Griz within five points, 49-44, early in the third quarter.
But Bailey answered with a bucket and it kick-started the hosts on an 8-0 run. Montana trailed 64-50 heading into the final quarter and despite shaving its deficit to 68-58 on a McKenzie Johnston bucket with just over seven minutes left, the Lady Griz faded down the stretch. NAU finished the game on a 14-7 run, posting its first win over UM in seven years.
"We just got off to a slow start," Schweyen said. "They got off to a hot one.
"I was proud of the way we crawled back into it. They jumped on us big early. We never got a stat sheet in the game and we never knew what the hell was going on as far as numbers. But we couldn't get enough stops."
Northern Arizona shot an impressive 53.2 percent from the field (10 for 20 from 3-point range, 33 for 62 overall). Montana shot 34.4 percent (22 for 64) and lost the battle of the boards, 39-32.
Bailey was 7 for 9 from 3-point range and 12 for 15 overall.
"She's been coming on strong," Schweyen offered. "She's gotten the green light and it's amazing when you get confidence like that how things just take off.
"We certainly helped her confidence tonight. She had a big (home stand). Five threes against the Cats, seven against us. She was the focus on our scouting report and she gets seven threes on us."
Gabi Harrington led Montana with 12 points and six rebounds. Henderson was right behind her with 12 points and five rebounds. Reserve Abby Anderson had a solid game with 10 points and four rebounds.
Montana will try to right the ship with two home games to finish up the regular season later this week. On Thursday the Lady Griz will try to exact some revenge on a Portland State team that beat them earlier this season in Portland, Oregon.