MISSOULA — Fresh off a confidence-building road win in Southern California last weekend, the Montana women's basketball team will shoot for another Saturday in Orem, Utah.
The Lady Griz certainly have reason to feel good about their chances against a Utah Valley team that has stumbled to a 1-6 start. But the Wolverines' record is a little deceiving.
"You look at their score against Boise, who is picked to win their (Mountain West) league and has been to the NCAA (in March), and it was literally a one-possession game in the last minute and a half," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen said of a 77-69 loss by Utah Valley at Boise State last week.
"They've got size, a good 6-foot-5 post player who is shooting a good percentage and a balanced cast around her. They've got nice size across the board with 6-2 kids. It's going to be another road game where we've got to create atmosphere ourselves. But we're looking forward to the challenge."
Montana (3-3) had mixed results in the Titan Classic in Fullerton, California, last weekend. The Lady Griz struggled to score early in a 10-point loss to Santa Clara on Nov. 29. They bounced back nicely with a 71-69 win over Fullerton last Saturday in a game that tested their composure.
The Lady Griz led by 17 midway through the second quarter and seven heading into the final frame. Fullerton stormed back and led by three with just under 4 minutes left before Montana responded, using big buckets by Emma Stockholm, Sophia Stiles and Taylor Goligoski.
"Our zone was effective against Fullerton," Schweyen said. "They had a hard time making shots for quite some time and when they made their run, they basically started making threes and we had a stretch where we missed a lot of free throws.
"But defensively we did some really nice things in a zone and we had to have some big stops in man toward the end of the game and we got some valuable possessions on defense. The other thing we really did well was feed the post."
Goligoski, starting point guard McKenzie Johnston and starting post Abby Anderson have been Montana's top threats lately. Over the past three games, Johnston has collected 32 points, 18 rebounds and four assists. Goligoski has piled up 27 points and nine rebounds and Anderson has pitched in with 24 points and nine boards.
Utah Valley is looking to bounce back after Tuesday's humbling home loss to Idaho State, 88-61, in front of 328 fans. The Bengals (4-2) built a 23-11 lead in the first frame and never looked back.
The Wolverines turned the ball over 18 times and Idaho State finished with a 36-23 edge in rebounds.
"It's really frustrating to dig yourself a hole like that and not even give yourself a chance," Utah Valley coach Dan Nielson said after the game. "Credit to Idaho State for running their stuff really well. But we've got to find a way to have more energy, more fight and giving the effort that's needed to win."
Notes: Lady Griz forward Madi Schoening has a back injury that has prevented her from playing. There is no timetable for her return ... Shelby Schweyen, who is redshirting this season along with sister Jordyn Schweyen and Carmen Gfeller, will undergo knee surgery ... Montana will be on the road again next weekend at South Dakota and will return home for a game against MSU Billings on Dec. 20.