By Montana Sports Information
Missoula native Liv Roberts sparked Wyoming to an early lead, and Montana’s ongoing offensive struggles never allowed the Lady Griz to catch up as the Cowgirls won 67-42 on Sunday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
Wyoming (7-3) defeated Montana (3-7) for the fifth straight season and picked up its fourth consecutive win in Missoula, becoming the first team to ever accomplish that feat.
The Cowgirls led 16-8 after the first quarter and 34-21 at the half. The lead reached 20, 49-29 through three quarters, and the Lady Griz trailed by 20 or more the entire fourth quarter.
Montana shot 32.1 percent, the seventh time in 10 games this season the Lady Griz have shot below 33 percent.
“It’s one of those games where you walk away frustrated because you feel like you got some decent shots, but unfortunately nobody had a hot hand,” said coach Shannon Schweyen.
“Wyoming is a good team. They are holding their opponents to 52 points a game. For us to get 42 on them with this group while missing a number of good shots, I feel somewhat encouraged about that.”
Montana didn’t do itself any favors early on, missing 11 of its 14 shots in the first quarter. On the other end, Roberts was staking her team to a lead it would hold for more than 38 minutes.
Her first three of the game put the Cowgirls up 3-2. She assisted on a Natalie Baker three, then hit another one of her own to make it 10-4, and Wyoming was rolling.
“We were running some things that were getting wide-open shots, particularly early, but we just didn’t knock down a lot of them,” said Schweyen. “I think the game would have had a different feel if we could have made a few of those.”
Roberts, Wyoming’s leading scorer and rebounder, would finish with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes of work.
“Liv is a bundle to handle,” said Schweyen. “She’s good inside and outside. We tried to limit her touches as best we could.”
Despite its slow start, Montana had the ball down 10 late in the second quarter. The Lady Griz opened the second-half scoring with a McKenzie Johnston basket 13 seconds in that made it 34-23, and they had three possessions that could have brought them within 10, but all came up empty.
Wyoming answered with five straight points, and the Cowgirls built their lead to 49-29 by the end of the quarter.
“I thought we had a few sequences as the game went on when we executed well and got some one-footers, but we’re just not focused enough to make those,” said Schweyen.
“Good shots are hard enough for us to come by. When we do get them, we need to make the most out of them, because offensively it’s a struggle right now getting someone to make some baskets.”
Emma Stockholm scored eight of her 10 points in the second half on 3-for-4 shooting after ditching the 3-point line, where she went 0 for 4, for the paint.
Johnston scored six second-half points. Two came on a sweet all-in-one-motion rebound put-back, two more at the free throw line when she was fouled while attempting to do the same thing.
“McKenzie has a great knack for reading where the ball is coming off. She goes to the board hard,” said Schweyen.
“And I was encouraged to see Emma come in and get some post scoring done in the second half. That’s an area we haven’t scored the ball much. To actually get a few buckets in the paint was nice to see.”
Montana’s bench added only three baskets, going 3 for 18 to score a season-low nine points.
“We kept putting people in there searching for an answer off the bench, and we just didn’t get much lift today,” said Schweyen.
Natalie Baker matched Roberts with 14 points, and 14th-year Wyoming coach Joe Legerski used the game to get playing time for eight of his bench players.
The Cowgirls went 7 for 20 from 3-point range and also scored 30 points in the paint, a combination Schweyen wasn’t expecting nor pleased to see.
“This is a team that takes a lot of 3-pointers, and they took a lot today,” she said. “For them to also get that many in the paint was disappointing. They just out-forced us inside.”
Johnston finished with 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Stockholm also had 10. Wyoming limited Taylor Goligoski’s good looks and held Montana’s leading scorer to a quiet nine points. Nobody else had more than four.
“Hopefully we’ll have one of those games soon when some of our shots start dropping for us,” said Schweyen.
Wednesday would be an advantageous time for that to happen. While Wyoming was picked eighth in the Mountain West Conference preseason poll, Wednesday’s opponent, Colorado State (6-4), last year’s Mountain West champion and NCAA Tournament team, was picked first.
The Lady Griz and Rams tip off at 7 p.m. Colorado State won last year’s matchup in Fort Collins 75-43.