MISSOULA — Given the chance to knock off some rust and hone their shooting, the Montana Lady Griz seized the opportunity in a Sunday matinee that was devoid of drama.
The Maroon and Silver stomped over-matched NAIA foe College of Idaho, 61-33, at Dahlberg Arena. Montana improved to 4-3 overall and built some valuable momentum with a two-game Big Sky Conference series at Northern Arizona set to start Thursday night.
"It helps just getting game speed and handling game nerves," said Montana junior point guard Sophia Stiles, whose team went seven days without a contest after losing at Northern Colorado in OT last weekend.
"Whether they're DI or not, you still have nerves before every game. Having the game experience helps, then running actions against people who aren't your team and don't know the plays also helps."
Montana led the game from start to finish and the scoring was about as balanced as you can get. Carmen Gfeller tallied a game-high 10 points, followed by Joelnell Momberg with nine and six other Lady Griz with four or more points.
"Today was an opportunity to try different things, play different players and different lineups," Montana coach Mike Petrino said. "We gained valuable experience.
"I'm proud we had 14 assists off 20 baskets. That's a good positive sign. I'm not happy about the turnovers (19) but the good news is we haven't peaked yet."
For the Lady Griz to win in Flagstaff Thursday, they'll probably need to shoot the ball better. The team went 3 for 17 in the third quarter and 20 for 63 for the game. The good news is that Montana hit 5 of 10 shots in the final frame.
"We had balance of production and that's always good," Petrino said. "I'm happy we got to play (13) kids.
"These girls have done a really good job of being resilient. It hasn't been easy, not knowing if games are going to happen or not. It was great to have everybody in there today."
Maybe the best news of all Sunday was that Abby Anderson came out with the starting five. She is a catalyst inside for Montana on both ends and appears to be healthy again after dealing with a hamstring issue that forced her to miss last weekend's game at Northern Colorado. She finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Petrino expressed his appreciation for College of Idaho taking the game on short notice. The Yotes fell to 1-7 overall and 0-6 in road games. The team, which hails from Caldwell, Idaho, was playing Montana for the first time in history after the scheduled Lady Griz game against Whitworth on Saturday was canceled.
The only two players on the Lady Griz roster that did not take floor Sunday were Shelby Schweyen (knee) and Nyah Morris-Nelson (non-COVID illness).
Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at email@example.com.