Call it a low point for the Montana women's basketball team.
Southern Utah snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 71-56 win over the struggling Lady Griz Saturday in Cedar City, Utah. The Thunderbirds hit 10 treys in beating Montana for only the second time in 19 tries.
"We certainly weren't ourselves," UM coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio. "... It was just a rough one."
The loss further damaged Montana's chances of garnering a top-5 finish in the Big Sky Conference and a bye in the first round of the league tourney. At this point the Lady Griz (7-10 Big Sky, 12-14 overall) would just be happy to end their three-game skid and generate some confidence, especially on the road where they're 3-10.
"It felt like we weren't really focused today at all. That was disappointing," said Schweyen, whose squad will try to regroup Monday night at Northern Arizona. "We talked about how we were going to be guarding things defensively and the things we were going to be doing and we just had a couple people not on the same page. When you do that, they turn into easy ones for them."
To their credit, the Lady Griz started strong against the upset-minded Thunderbirds (4-14, 7-20). Montana built a 12-5 lead in the first seven-plus minutes behind a pair of buckets by Emma Stockholm.
Southern Utah responded with a 10-0 run to close out the quarter, then gave Montana more fits when it switched to zone defense in the second frame. Lady Griz senior post Jace Henderson struggled to convert in the paint and her 0-for-7 shooting from the field was one reason her team trailed 33-24 at halftime.
"Jace got off to a tough start and those are shots that usually go for her," Schweyen said of the Billings product, who missed her first 10 shots and finished 3 for 15. "It was just one of those days where things were not going to go down for her. We tried to find some other people to pick up the slack."
Stockholm and point guard McKenzie Johnston were the only Lady Griz starters on their game Saturday. Johnston racked up a game-high 22 points with 8-for-14 shooting from the floor and added eight rebounds and five assists. Stockholm scored a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The rest of the Montana starters shot a combined 11 for 44. Gabi Harrington shot 3 for 10 and finished with eight points and Sammy Fatkin (0 for 5) did not score.
"Kenzie competed her butt off, hitting those dribble-jumpers and getting to the line a bunch," Schweyen said. "... And (reserve) Kylie Frohlich gave us some great minutes.
"I love the hustle play she made running down that rebound and that score and she took her first charge tonight. She had really positive minutes. We just had a couple kids out of it."
For all of its struggles, Montana stayed in the game most of the way. The Lady Griz trailed 49-43 early in the final stanza before two triples by Rebecca Cardenas and one by Breanu Reid gave the hosts breathing room with a 60-49 lead and 5 minutes left.
"Our posts didn't get up on the on-ball action high enough to contest some of those threes late," Schweyen said. "We were just too flat on those. Those are things we have to do a better job of. Obviously they're a different team this time with Cardenas."
Cardenas was sidelined with a concussion when the Lady Griz beat Southern Utah in Missoula on New Year's Eve. She made up for it Saturday with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Four Thunderbirds finished with 14 or more points, including Cardenas, Reid (15), Jessica Chatman (15) and Harley Hansen (14).
The Lady Griz have three regular-season games left to figure out some things before the Big Sky tourney, which starts a week from Monday in Boise, Idaho.
"We just can't stroll into places and think we're going to get wins," Schweyen said. "We've got to be ready to go.
"We've got some kids that need to get dialed in to who they're guarding and who the opponents are. We have to take some accountability for that as coaches, as players. Until we can do those simple things, we don't have a chance of beating people."