MISSOULA — Despite a disappointing loss at Portland State Thursday, the Montana Lady Griz are still in the thick of the Big Sky Conference regular-season title race.
They have six games remaining, half of which are on the road. The team sits in second in the standings and wants to finish in the top four at the least, thereby earning a bye in first round of next month's Big Sky tourney.
Saturday represents a good opportunity for Montana to steal a game on the road. Sacramento State sports a 2-9 mark in Big Sky action and typically doesn't draw many fans to The Nest.
But UM coach Shannon Schweyen has reason to be concerned going in. Her starting lineup has been hit with significant injuries the past week, including Sophia Stiles' torn ACL, Jace Henderson's groin tear and Madi Schoening's tweaked back.
That and the fact the Hornets beat the Lady Griz by 30 points in The Nest last year has Montana sitting up and taking notice.
"They're always tough at home," said Schweyen, whose team has lost in its last four visits to Sacramento, California.
"They shot the three well (Thursday) and they had a lot of steals in their win over Montana State. They can get you turning it over and it can turn into layups."
The up-tempo Hornets snapped an eight-game skid in beating the Cats 88-77 Thursday. Sophomore guard Hannah Friend scored 31 points, sophomore guard Tiara Scott added a season-high 21 and their team totaled 12 triples in shooting 50.9 percent from the floor (28 for 55).
But the Lady Griz are likely more concerned with themselves heading into Saturday. They didn't look good on either end in their first game without Stiles Thursday.
"We're excited to get back out there," Schweyen said. "There were some bright spots (Thursday), but other than Caitlin (Lonergan) scoring inside, we need someone to step up and have presence.
"It's just crazy how you can get so much out of somebody one game and nothing the next."
Montana's starters were held to 27 points on 11-for-33 shooting at Portland State. Henderson, who had a double-double against the Vikings in Missoula, was held scoreless with one rebound. Taylor Goligoski, one of the guards Schweyen needs more out of with the loss of Stiles, was held to seven points.
They'll be hungry to redeem themselves Saturday afternoon. They know how important each and every game is from here on out with their team sitting in fourth in the standings.
"It's funny because fans will say you're sitting at 1 or 3 or whatever it is that week," Henderson said. "It's been easier for me to not even look at it. We just have to get the next one. They're all super important."