MISSOULA — Taylor Goligoski scooted into the lane, created space with a jump stop and swished her trademark teardrop shot.
Suddenly all seemed well in Montana's world.
The sophomore from Hamilton keyed a monster first half against Cal State Fullerton and her team followed through for its first win, 68-47, on Friday night in the Lady Griz Classic. Montana's cushion was 21-2 at one point in a non-conference contest that drew 2,512 fans.
"They came out fired up and ready to go and that was encouraging to see," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen said. "We were talking about how last year we had so many slow starts. The girls were excited to be back home and eager to get something in the win column."
Goligoski, sidelined for almost six weeks with a quadriceps injury, showed she's almost back to 100 percent in her fourth game appearance. She scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting and grabbed three rebounds in helping Montana to a 39-13 halftime bulge.
"I definitely felt more into it," said the guard, who led UM in scoring last winter. "I think I got into more of a rhythm this week in practice being able to have quite a few there in a row. Slowly I feel more like myself."
While Goligoski led the Lady Griz in the first half, sophomore teammate Hailey Nicholson finished with a team-high 16 points and nine rebounds. And perhaps even more important, 10 Montana players scored in the first half.
Montana (1-5) finished with a whopping 44-6 advantage in bench points.
"When you get on a roll like that and everybody comes in and knocks something down and your bench is contributing, sometimes it can really snowball," Schweyen said. "That's a good basketball team we played and we kind of blitzed them the first half.
"They responded second half. Credit to them. They knocked down some threes. But our hot start helped a lot."
Key to Montana's season-best 43.6 shooting performance (24 for 55) was its ability to work the ball inside. The Lady Griz finished with a 36-20 edge in points in the paint against a Titans team that is every bit Montana's equal in the size department.
"But after their big girl went out we actually had size on them," Schweyen noted. "She got in foul trouble early and that was advantageous for us I thought.
"Our posts have been scoring it well as of late and that was kind of a point of emphasis that we wanted to get the ball inside. We haven't been shooting the three as well."
You could argue Montana won the game in the first quarter, building a 17-0 lead in just over eight minutes. Fullerton missed 15 of its first 16 shots while Goligoski hit her first four, including two triples, in helping Montana to a 24-5 lead early in the second stanza.
"She moved well tonight and it was nice to see some of those go down," Schweyen said. "She's been shooting it well in practice. It was just the rest of her game and remembering the plays.
"It's amazing how a month and a half off you kind of forget some of that stuff. She had some great minutes."
Although Fullerton was unable to mount a serious comeback in the second half, the Titans did play better. Their 26-point halftime deficit was whittled to 17 thanks to a 14-5 run after intermission. The Lady Griz responded with a 6-0 run, with four points coming from Jace Henderson.
The rest of the game was a formality.
"It felt really good to get the win," Goligoski said. "I think we were really confident coming into this game.
"I know we were 0-5 but we did put up some good fights against some really good teams. I know we got better because of that."
In the first game of the Lady Griz Classic, Oral Roberts held off Long Beach State for a 64-58 win. The 49ers used a fullcourt press to force 26 turnovers but struggled on the offensive end, hitting 23 of 65 shots while turning the ball over 20 times.
Long Beach State (1-6) will battle Montana Saturday at 7 p.m. The 49ers posted their only win of the season Tuesday at Arizona, 80-72.
"They have a good zone and it's going to be something different, which I'm excited to get something different," Schweyen said. "They really play outside shoulder. They try to force you baseline. They trap. It will be new for us and I'm curious to see how we do against it."
Notes: Montana finished with a 46-31 edge in rebounds ... Fullerton's 6-foot-3 junior center, Daeja Smith, was limited to 27 minutes because of foul trouble but still managed a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds ... The Lady Griz enjoyed a 17-9 edge in points from the foul line ... Montana point guard McKenzie Johnston dished out six assists.