It was too many turnovers, not enough rebounding and just too much Arizona on Wednesday as the Montana women’s basketball team fell to the Wildcats 100-51 in Tucson.
Arizona (7-1), which has already surpassed its number of wins for all of last season, when the Wildcats went 6-24, led 53-25 at the half and never let up to become the first opponent to reach the century mark against the Lady Griz since Sacramento State in 2009-10.
“They are big and strong, and we knew that coming in,” said coach Shannon Schweyen. “I’m not sure we’ll see quickness like that the rest of the year.”
Montana (3-3) hung with Arizona through the opening five minutes, pulling within 11-8 when Jace Henderson found Gabi Harrington for a layup on a backdoor cut, but the Lady Griz would go more than eight minutes before their next basket.
By the time Katie Mayhue had a putback from an offensive rebound more than three minutes into the second quarter, Arizona led 29-11.
Montana shot better than 41 percent in the first half but still got more than doubled up through the opening 20 minutes, mainly due to Arizona’s work on the offensive glass.
In the first possession of the game, the Wildcats grabbed three offensive rebounds before scoring. That would become a common theme.
They turned 16 offensive rebounds in the first half into 19 second-chance points, one of the areas Schweyen knew had the potential to be a game-changer. It went from potential to reality right in front of her.
“They absolutely abused us on the boards. It was hard to get a rebound,” she said. “They were quicker to the ball and that was a big difference, all the second-chance points they got.”
Between those offensive rebounds and Montana’s 22 turnovers, Arizona took 24 more shots than the Lady Griz, a stat that more than neutralizes a decent shooting percentage by the other team.
The Wildcats compounded it by shooting 51.4 percent and going 9 for 22 from 3-point range, which is how a team wins by 49.
“For a while we were shooting the ball well, but with all the turnovers and their extra points on rebounds, you can’t hang with anybody,” said Schweyen, who got more than 10 minutes for 10 different players, nine of whom scored.
“We played everybody and they got some good experience. We saw a lot of different things. They man-pressed, zone-pressed and did a variety of things. We’ll look at that as valuable experience and get better from it.”
Aari McDonald, the nation’s second-leading scorer, finished with 28 points and added six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Cate Reese, a 6-foot-4 freshman, added 20 points and 18 rebounds.
She had six turnovers, but she also scored 17 points on just 11 shots and got to the line 10 times.
“Katie got some very valuable minutes at the point and did a good job,” said Schweyen. “She took it to the hole and put some pressure on them.
“I’m proud of what she did. She’s going to be a heck of a player. She was fired up to be out there and wanted the ball in her hands. She wanted to be the one taking shots.”
Emma Stockholm added nine points on 50-percent shooting, but no one else scored more than six. Henderson, who had five assists and two blocks, was limited to a single made free throw.
Montana made just seven baskets in the second half on 29-percent shooting to finish at 35.4 percent for the game.
“They make it hard to execute. They take you out of your stuff,” said Schweyen. “There were times we got some really good shots, when we were disciplined enough to stay in our offense.
“But they’re so quick on defense. It looks like something is there, then they recover out of things well.”
Montana will try to get a split of its Arizona road trip when the Lady Griz face Grand Canyon on Friday at 6 p.m. in Phoenix.