MISSOULA — The University of Montana was scheduled to play the men's and women's basketball teams from Whitworth University on Saturday, but the Lady Griz game has been canceled, UM said in a short media release Friday morning.
The men's game against the NCAA Division III school from Spokane, Washington, is to be played as expected, a UM athletic department spokesman told the Missoulian and 406mtsports.com. Tipoff for the Montana men is scheduled for 2 p.m. and it is to be televised on Pluto TV channel 1056.
Four Lady Griz games have been canceled this season.
"I mean it's just where we're at today," UM women's head coach Mike Petrino said on Friday afternoon. "I'm proud of the way the kids came in and practiced today. I didn't think the disappointment of the news affected or mood and effort today at practice, which was great."
A Whitworth spokesperson said in an email the men's game was not in danger of cancellation. He added that the men's and women's teams from the school have "completely separate" arrangements for practices, locker rooms and travel.
The game against UM was to be the Whitworth women's team's season opener.
“While we are disappointed women’s basketball won’t get to play the game as scheduled, we are mindful of the big picture and ensuring the long-term health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff," Whitworth athletic director Tim Demant said in a statement to the Missoulian.
Neither game was on the schedule to start the season. After numerous cancellations — including an early-season series against Southern Utah — the Lady Griz have been looking for games to add.
Petrino and UM have spoken with numerous basketball programs looking for games over the past several weeks. The Lady Griz have played just two games since Dec. 15.
"We've lost a third of our games now," Petrino said. "For a group like us with seven returners, eight new faces, we need as much game experience as we can get."
Montana men's coach Travis DeCuire spoke early in the nonconference slate about possibly adding games outside of four contests against Pac-12 and SEC squads.
The Grizzlies did, adding a contest against Yellowstone Christian, Dickinson State and then with Whitworth. Dickinson State and Whitworth both have close connections to the Grizzlies, and Yellowstone Christian is a school in Billings.
DSU coach Derek Selvig is a former Grizzly star and UM men's assistant coach Zach Payne played and coached for the Pirates. Payne graduated from Whitworth in 2014 and is in his second year with the Montana men's basketball program.
According to the Whitworth spokesperson, the game was to net the Spokane school around $2,000 per team, much of which would go back into busing and meals. Montana is to pay for lodging and both contracts were "arranged separately" by the men's and women's programs at each school.
Montana athletic director Kent Haslam said UM was paying for nine hotel rooms per team for one night. He also added there was a COVID-19 back-out no penalty clause, meaning UM does not owe any money to Whitworth and vice versa.
The dates worked out well for both Montana teams because they each have a break from Big Sky Conference play this week. The Montana men have played 10 times, and the Lady Griz have competed in just six contests. Haslam said the UM women's team is still searching for an opponent, possibly even for Sunday.
The men's team, which received $255,000 for playing in four guaranteed games against high-major opponents, has yet to have a game canceled or postponed.
Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com