MISSOULA — Armed with the confidence that comes from a three-game win streak, Montana will shoot for a road breakthrough Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Griz basketball team has yet to win away from Dahlberg Arena under second-year coach Shannon Schweyen. She and her team hope to change that against Fresno State at 3 p.m. inside the cavernous Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
Both teams are 3-5.
"Fresno is a good basketball team but I like what this group is doing right now," said Schweyen, whose team snapped Stephen F. Austin's six-game win streak Thursday in Missoula. "I’m excited to see how we handle this. We’ve got to go create excitement on the road and see what we can do."
Unlike some of Montana's Big Sky Conference foes, Fresno State draws decent crowds for women's basketball. The Bulldogs beat Pacific at home Thursday, 81-70, in front of 1,978 fans.
"This is a big thing for us," Montana point guard McKenzie Johnston said. "We’ve had big road games already this year and I think we’ve competed well.
"It’s going to be a different type of atmosphere for us. We’re used to a great home crowd. I don’t know how the crowd will be in Fresno Sunday. But I think we’re all ready to finally get a road win."
Montana's shooting has been the most encouraging aspect of its three-game winning streak. The team hit 43.6 percent of its attempts in wins over Stephen F. Austin and Cal State Fullerton.
Balance has also been a boon. Nine Lady Griz scored in wins over Stephen F. Austin and Long Beach State and 10 tallied points in a win over Cal State Fullerton.
Sophomore forward Hailey Nicholson has emerged as a dependable mid-range shooter for the Lady Griz. She and sophomore guard Taylor Goligoski have given Montana a big lift off the bench.
The question is, when will Schweyen get Nicholson and Goligoski back in the starting lineup? They're both used to starting but have done exceptionally well in reserve roles lately.
"A lot of times we get out here in the game and it’s a little bit who’s feeling it," Schweyen said. "(Reserve) Sophia (Stiles) was very valuable to have on the floor (Thursday). She got those extra minutes.
"Hailey in the first half had 10 points in nine minutes so it was hard to keep her off the floor."
Fresno State is 2-2 at home this season, with wins over Eastern Washington (81-56) and Pacific (81-70). The Bulldogs hit 11 triples in Thursday's win over Pacific.
The Lady Griz will need to keep track of Fresno junior Candice White, a preseason Mountain West All-Conference selection. She is averaging 17 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and is tied for the team lead in assists.
“She is a very nice player, pretty complete,” Schweyen said. “She is a guard who can do a little bit of everything. She’s tough off the dribble and has the green light all the time to shoot.
“She’ll certainly need to be a big focus of ours. We won’t necessarily stop her, but we’ll try to contain her somewhat and make it tougher for her to score.”
The Bulldogs are coached Jaime White, who is in her fourth season. She guided them to 20-win seasons and the WNIT her first two years.
Lady Griz fans may remember White from the years she coached Northern Colorado. She led the Bears to 117 wins in eight seasons.