Lady Griz vs. Idaho State 13

The Montana bench reacts as the final seconds drain from the clock in Thursday's home loss to Idaho State. The Lady Griz basketball team will shoot to snap a three-game skid at home Saturday against Weber State.

MISSOULA — Fourth-quarter fizzles have left the Montana women's basketball team searching for answers amid a three-game losing streak.

With all the experience and talent the Lady Griz boast, it doesn't seem possible they have the same 4-4 Big Sky Conference record they had at the same point last season. Suddenly they can't seem to finish, losing close calls at Portland State and Idaho and fading late in Thursday's home loss to Idaho State.

Montana will try to snap its skid and build much-needed momentum Saturday when it plays host to league doormat Weber State at 2 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena. The Wildcats are 1-7 in Big Sky play and 3-14 overall.

"You don't ever want to see that many L's in a row," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen said of her team's January woes. "We need to come out of that one and feel good about the way we're playing.

"Obviously Idaho we felt like we really competed and that was a heartbreaker last Saturday, but (Thursday) was not a good one for us. Not a feelgood game by any means."

When Montana raced to a 3-0 start in league play, its post play was a major factor. Over that three-game stretch, forwards Emma Stockholm and Abby Anderson combined for an average of 31.6 points and 12.6 rebounds.

But opposing coaches have caught on. Idaho State veteran skipper Seton Sobolewski make it a defensive priority to front the Lady Griz post players in the second half of Thursday's game and the Stockholm-Anderson duo shot a combined 4 for 18 in a 67-53 loss.

Not that the forwards are the only ones struggling for Montana. As a team the Lady Griz have shot under 34 percent in all three of their recent losses.

"And (Idaho State) out-hustled us down the stretch in rebounding and offensive boards and our lack of blocking out and those types of things," said Schweyen, whose team was out-boarded 24-16 in the second half Thursday. "We've got to get back on track and get after it."

Weber State is mired in a four-game losing streak, with its only league win coming at Northern Colorado on Jan. 9. On Thursday the Wildcats, who start two freshmen and a sophomore, were blown out at Montana State, 81-52. The Cats dominated inside, with a 40-22 edge in points in the paint and a 43-31 edge in rebounds.

Wildcats coach Velaida Harris has not fared well in the Big Sky with a record of 4-24 since taking the reins last season. The first African-American woman to be hired as a Division I head coach in any sport in Utah, she was an assistant at Rhode Island prior to moving to Ogden.

The Wildcats have lost by double digits in their four most recent conference games. They did, however, push Idaho State last week in Ogden. The game was tied heading into the final frame before the Bengals surged to a 65-54 win. 

"I'm proud of the fact that we're working hard, but we aren't working smart," Harris said after that loss. "Getting smarter is our next step. We just have to keep working. Start matching the physicality and keep progressing."

After Saturday, the competition will get much tougher for Montana. The Lady Griz will host imposing Portland State Thursday and then league leader Montana State will be in town Saturday for an afternoon showdown.

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Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 14 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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