MISSOULA — Two teams without their starting point guards put their shooting depth to the test Monday at Dahlberg Arena.
Montana showed its superiority in that category, cruising past Southern Utah 79-57 behind a career-high 20 points by junior forward Emma Stockholm. The Lady Griz were minus their leading scorer McKenzie Johnston (family wedding) and the T-birds were without Rebecca Cardenas (concussion).
"Although we missed Kenzie's presence, I thought the ladies did a fabulous job today," said Montana coach Shannon Schweyen, whose team enjoyed a 44-22 edge in points in the paint and a 50-31 advantage in rebounds.
"I told them before the game I'm very confident in who we have to run this team."
Gabi Harrington and Jace Henderson complemented Stockholm's breakout scoring performance by each recording a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds). Taylor Goligoski added eight points and Katie Mayhue seven.
"We have a lot of really athletic guards with some length," Goligoski said. "Katie (Mayhue), Sammy (Fatkin), Gabi (Harrington) ... We have enough good players that we can be without one and still blow out teams like this."
Montana improved to 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play and 7-4 overall with a big road trip later this week. The Lady Griz play at Sacramento State on Thursday night and at Portland State Saturday.
Montana spotted Southern Utah (0-2, 3-8) a four-point lead late in the first quarter, then responded with a 16-0 run to start the second. Stockholm led the way with three buckets, including a triple.
"This summer I worked my butt off," the junior said. "If I wanted to play and star I had to work for it, so I knew this was my time to shine and here I am."
Montana's switch from zone to man defense early in the second period was also key to its surge.
"They haven't been shooting the ball all that well from three but they were getting lots of good looks," Schweyen said of the T-birds, who had five triples in the first period. "We had some kids in different positions in the (2-3) zone and they were knocking those down initially. I thought the man was good. Our pressure was good and caused some havoc."
The Thunderbirds found themselves on the short end of a 35-23 score midway through the second period, then responded with a 7-0 run after Schweyen went deep into her bench. Montana's lead was 40-34 at the break but it opened the third frame with a 12-4 run, with Stockholm again leading the charge with four points.
"It was a struggle without Kenzie, she's a great part of our team," Stockholm said. "But Katie (Mayhue) and Sammy (Fatkin) have all the confidence in the world bringing the ball up and they got the job done today."
Southern Utah trailed 52-38 with just under seven minutes left in the third frame and spent the rest of the game trying to cut its deficit under 10.
The T-birds simply couldn't keep up with Montana's superior shooting. The hosts shot 50 percent from the floor (34 for 68) and the visitors 33.8 percent (22 for 65).
"We all shared the ball really well, all across the board," said Stockholm, whose Lady Griz piled up 18 assists to Southern Utah's 12. "It was just a team game and we all contributed."