MISSOULA — For a while you wondered if Montana's foe was ever going to score Tuesday.
Then you wondered if Taylor Goligoski was ever going to miss.
Goligoski, a senior guard from Hamilton, hit six triples and totaled 20 points in leading the UM women's basketball team to a 98-45 win over MSU-Northern on Tuesday afternoon. A turnout of 7,205 loud fans — mostly kids — reveled in the matinee display as part of the third annual Lady Griz School Day celebration at Dahlberg Arena.
"I don't know how anybody couldn't be fired up to play in this," said UM coach Shannon Schweyen, whose team shot almost 60 percent from the floor (41 for 69) and didn't allow a point in the first 5 minutes.
"The girls couldn't hear very well on the floor, but it's good for us. It makes you understand to communicate effectively you've got to talk. But I love just seeing the girls enjoying themselves out there. It's fun when you're making baskets and sharing the ball."
Goligoski hit 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range and 7 of 10 overall. Montana hit 11 of 19 attempts from behind the arc, which bodes well with a much tougher opponent coming to Missoula next week in Fresno State.
"It's been a big focus for me in the off-season, shooting," Goligoski said. "We had a lot of people knock down threes and other shots, so as a team we played real well. I think everybody shot the ball with confidence and that's a huge part of it, having confidence."
Dominating an NAIA team like MSU-Northern is not all that surprising for a rock-solid Division I team like the Lady Griz. What was impressive, though, was Montana's ball movement. The team racked up 30 assists with just 11 turnovers.
"When we went into halftime, we had a ton of assists (18) for our buckets," said Schweyen, whose squad led 49-20 at intermission. "That's a stat we like to see. That shows we're sharing the ball.
"I think our bigs are good passers. It's nice we have our bigs triggering some of that. And I truly feel when that second group comes in, there isn't any drop-down. They bring a little different something to the table."
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For the third time this season, Schweyen went with a starting lineup of McKenzie Johnston, Sophia Stiles, Gabi Harrington, Emma Stockholm and Abby Anderson. Harrington keyed a 15-0 run to start the game with a pair of triples.
Schweyen brought in Goligoski, Kylie Frohlich, Jamie Pickens and Sammy Fatkin off the bench and all delivered solid performances. The only concern right now is that Montana has a nine-player roster, with Madi Schoening nursing a back injury and Carmen Gfeller, Jordyn Schweyen and Shelby Schweyen all sitting on the bench in street clothes Tuesday.
Nine players will be plenty if Montana continues to execute the way it did against MSU-Northern. But that's easier said than done with home games against Fresno State, Grand Canyon and Arizona all coming up in the next 18 days.
Nine Lady Griz scored scored five or more points against the Lights (1-1) and five score in double figures. Northern, in contrast, shot 31.8 percent from the floor (14 for 44).
"The Carroll, game, were like, 'Oh boy,' we felt like we should have been able to contain them more," Stiles said of a tussle Montana won in overtime last week, 74-70. "This game will help our confidence a lot."
No one played with more confidence than Goligoski. Tuesday marked the first time since last December she scored in double figures.
"It's always kind of been there," she said of her shooting touch. "It's just being in the right head space, having that confidence to let it fly and have confidence it's going in."
Schweyen knows that in order for her team to push for a Big Sky Conference title, it needs to have players like Goligoski step forward and drain triples consistently.
"You have to have somebody who has a hot hand that can knock those down," the coach said. "I mean, it's so valuable.
"Taylor has always been capable. She's had some big games. I know she's worked really hard on that, so it would be awesome if that was her role to come in and knock down shots."