Life without freshman spark plug Sophia Stiles hasn't been much fun for the Montana women's basketball team.
The Lady Griz dropped their second road game in three days Saturday, struggling from the start in a 79-64 setback at Sacramento State. Since losing the quick and athletic Stiles to a season-ending knee injury last weekend, Montana has appeared lost on both ends.
"We came out and had no intensity on D today," UM coach Shannon Schweyen told KGVO after her team lost for the fifth time in a row at The Nest in Sacramento, California. " ... It was the miscommunication things that are unacceptable if you want to be in a ball game like this.
"I thought we just came out asleep again."
With the two road losses this past week — Montana was beaten at Portland State Thursday — the Lady Griz plummeted from second to fourth in the Big Sky Conference standings. They're 8-5 in league play and one of the three teams on their tail at 7-5 is Eastern Washington, which is coming to Missoula for a Thursday game.
"We're still trying to find a way with losing Sophia," Schweyen said of Stiles, who was among Montana's statistical leaders in most categories offensively and defensively. "Our rotation, we need to find out what we're doing there. We've got a tough week coming up."
Montana showed plenty of fight early against the Hornets (3-9, 5-18). Sac State's lead was just two heading into the second quarter, 21-19.
Caitlin Lonergan, Montana's leader offensively this past week with 19 points Thursday and 15 Saturday, hit a bucket early in the second period to knot the score at 21-21. Sac State responded with a 9-2 run highlighted by Hannah Friend's 3-pointer.
Thanks to Nora Klick's triple late in the first half, the Lady Griz trailed by just four at intermission, 39-35. The Hornets took control in the third quarter and enjoyed a 58-43 lead heading into the fourth.
Key to Sac State's 19-8 surge in the third frame was Montana's inability to hit shots. The Lady Griz converted just 2 of 13 while Sac State made 8 of 22.
"They run enough stuff that gets you moving around and gets your bigs out on the perimeter," Schweyen said. "It's challenging to find ways to keep them from getting easy ones."
Montana trimmed its deficit under 10 points on a Taylor Goligoski bucket with 1:14 remaining. But it was too little, too late.
"I was proud of how the girls battled and made some shots late to try to make it interesting," Schweyen said. "But that start to the fourth just killed us."