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The highest scoring team in the Big Sky Conference looked downright toothless against Montana’s defense Friday.

The Lady Griz basketball team zoned Sacramento State into submission, creating 26 turnovers and a general feeling of frustration among the Hornets’ top shooters. The result was a 77-61 win in front of 3,258 fans at Dahlberg Arena.

“When everyone is clicking on all cylinders like that,” Montana senior guard Shaunte Nance-Johnson said, “and our defense is dictating our offense and we’re not turning over the ball, it’s a fun game to be a part of.”

The list of Lady Griz heroes was long. Five players scored in double figures, including Lauren Beck with 19 points, Jessa Loman Linford 15, Kenzie De Boer 12, Sarah Ena 11 and Alexandra Hurley 10.

But it was Nance-Johnson’s ability to draw six charges, including three during a key nine-minute stretch to start the second half, that may have been most remarkable.

Asked if he remembered anyone ever drawing six charges in a game before, Montana coach Robin Selvig was quick with the quip.

“No not since I played,” the ex-Grizzly hoopster joked. “No that was great. I tell you what, they want to go barreling fastbreak running down the middle, Shaunte claimed that spot.”

The first half was a back-and-forth struggle that saw Montana (3-2 conference, 8-9 overall) overcome a nine-point deficit in securing a 35-34 lead at the break. The Lady Griz struggled with cold shooting, hitting 13 of 42 shots.

That changed in the second half. Montana went on a 19-2 run in the first seven minutes, using six points by De Boer, five by Beck and four by Ena.

Meanwhile, the Hornets (0-3, 4-11) had a hard time getting anything done, turning the ball over eight times and missing six of seven shots.

“I thought we folded up a little bit,” Sac State first-year coach Jamie Craighead said. “I think it hurts that we get six offensive foul calls in that stretch. That’s the way it goes though.

“You’re on the road, you gotta play sometimes the officials, the crowd, the home team. That’s what a homecourt advantage is. It’s great the community supports this group because it really does provide a homecourt advantage.”

After losing their top scorer and rebounder, Katie Baker, to an injury last weekend, the Lady Griz needed someone to step forward offensively. Almost everyone seemed to step forward in some manner Friday, and one of the most telling stats was Montana’s 29-10 edge in bench points.

“We’re certainly a team thing,” Selvig said. “We don’t have someone going out there going to score a zillion. We have a lot of good players and we’re moving the ball.

“We didn’t shoot it great but the second half we got it going a little bit and then we were pretty solid on defense most of the night. Transition defense was the most important thing to start the game, the most important thing at half and that was the key for the whole night because they can score so quick.”

Nance-Johnson joked she could use a massage after hitting the floor so many times.

“This is the one game I didn’t wear my padded shorts. The one game,” she said. “I think one person that motivated me to take those charges was seeing Britney (Lohman) just getting to the right spot last season. You have to be prepared for those big girls.

“... To lose Katie, we knew we had to come out united tonight,” she added. “Look at Jessa (Loman Linford) coming up with 15 points. We miss Katie, but it’s balance.”

Heading into Friday’s game, Sac State led the Big Sky with an average of 76.7 points per game. In the five games leading up to this week the Hornets averaged 84.5.

But Montana’s 2-3 zone forced Sac State to shoot an inordinate amount of 3-point shots because working the ball inside resulted in so many turnovers.

“It doesn’t help that we shoot 6-for-29 from the 3-point line and get out-rebounded,” Craighead said. “Our offense goes as our shooters go.”

The Lady Griz, 8-1 in home games, will hit the road next Saturday for a game at Montana State.

SACRAMENTO STATE (61)

    Mins    FG-A    FT-A    Reb    PF    A    Pts

f-Hunt    34    5-16    1-3    4    3    2    13

f-Christensen    30    7-14    2-2    6    3    0    17

f-Edwards    25    4-9    2-2    13    4    1    11

g-Kshma-Diaz    35    2-5    0-0    3    4    7    6

g-Cannady    23    2-6    0-0    2    1    1    4

Garcia    21    2-5    2-6    3    3    5    6

Franco    9    0-2    0-2    2    0    0    0

Kuhns    11    1-1    1-2    5    5    1    3

Gallagher    4    0-1    1-2    1    0    0    1

Torgerson    8    0-2    0-0    2    0    0    0

Totals    200    23-61    9-19    45    23    17    61

MONTANA (77)

    Mins    FG-A    FT-A    Reb    PF    A    Pts

f-Ena    28    4-14    3-4    7    0    0    11

f-Lmn Lnfrd    24    6-10    3-4    7    3    2    15

g-Beck    33    8-15    2-2    8    3    3    19

g-Nnce-Jnsn    34    0-4    0-1    0    3    5    0

g-Stender    19    1-9    0-0    6    0    0    3

Smith    13    0-3    2-4    3    0    3    2

De Boer    19    4-12    3-4    5    4    1    12

Hurley    12    3-7    4-5    2    1    0    10

Robison    16    2-6    1-1    8    0    0    5

Ware    2    0-0    0-0    1    0    1    0

Totals    200    28-80    18-25    53    14    15    77

Halftime score: Montana 35, Sac State 34.

3-point goals: SS 6-29 (Hunt 2-10, Christensen 1-4, Edwards 1-5, Koshiyama-Diaz 2-5, Cannady 0-3, Garcia 0-2), UM 3-22 (Nance-Johnson 0-2, Stender 1-5, Beck 1-5, Smith 0-3, De Boer 1-6, Hurley 0-1).

Assists: SS 17 (Koshiyama-Diaz 7), UM 15 (Nance-Johnson 5).

Turnovers: SS 26 (Garcia 6), UM 14 (Ena 4).

Blocked shots: SS 2 (Cannady, Torgerson), UM 5 (Beck 2).

Steals: SS 7 (Hunt 2, Torgerson 2), UM 7 (Beck 2, Hurley 2).

Attendance: 3,258

Officials: Bryan Wallis, Karen Lasuik, Theresa Walloch

Sports writer Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

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