Say this for the Montana Lady Griz: They succeeded in catching Washington’s attention Saturday afternoon.
The cold-shooting Huskies needed a strong rebounding effort to hold off Montana, 69-54, in the first game of the Husky Classic basketball tourney at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. Montana trailed by just five midway through the third quarter before fading.
“We weren’t shooting the ball worth a darn … but at least we were fighting for offensive rebounds,” Washington coach Jody Wynn said. “We needed the extra possessions because we were shooting so poorly.
“… It wasn’t pretty but we’ll take an ugly win. (Montana) plays hard and they’re a physical bunch. We just have to play more focused tomorrow.”
Washington (7-3) advanced to the tourney final where it will play Boise State (7-2) Sunday at 5 p.m. Montana (4-4) will battle Saint Francis (2-7) in the consolation game at 2 p.m. Mountain time.
The Huskies owned a 46-32 rebounding advantage, with 20 boards coming on the offensive end. That and Montana’s 20-for-53 shooting made it tough for the visitors to stick with the hosts, who finished at 36.2 percent shooting from the floor (25 for 69) but tallied seven triples to Montana’s three.
“Big, strong, physical,” Montana coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio in describing Washington. “They get you extended in that zone and change your shots, even from a long ways away.
“I thought we got a little tired and didn’t quite react to getting some of those (rebounds). Then they were taking a lot of threes and for a long time weren’t making them. But they’re not going to miss forever.”
The key point came late in the third quarter after Gabi Harrington scored on a give-and-go pass from Jace Henderson to cut Montana’s deficit to 36-31.
Moments later, Harrington missed a breakaway layup that would have pulled her team even closer. Then the Huskies pounced, going on an 8-0 run with all the points coming off UM turnovers.
Montana refused to go away quietly, with Henderson converting a layup early in the fourth stanza to pull her team within nine, 52-43. But the Huskies responded with a 7-0 run and the Lady Griz never threatened again.
“That was a long dry spurt for us, which was unfortunate of course,” Schweyen said of her team’s struggles late in the third frame. “That was when they turned up the heat a little and I thought we got a little tired.
“I was pleased with a lot of things today though. This was a team that was undefeated at home and there were a lot of good things. Gabi (Harrington), holy cow, she had some beautiful dribble Js. She had a good game but could have had a huge one.”
Making her first career start, Harrington scored a team-high 13 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with McKenzie Johnston, each collecting five boards. But Harrington was 5 for 15 from the floor, missing several attempts from close range.
True freshman Katie Mayhue was a bright spot for Montana off the bench. She scored eight points and dished out three assists in 24 minutes of action.
Going into the game, Schweyen said that limiting turnovers would be crucial for her team. The Lady Griz finished with 20 and the Huskies boasted a 27-8 edge in points off turnovers.
Sunday’s game marks Montana’s last against an NCAA Division I foe before Big Sky Conference play starts a week from Saturday. The Lady Griz will make one last home appearance before league play, that coming on Thursday when the team hosts Montana Tech in an exhibition contest.