The Montana Lady Griz are off to their best start since the 1993-94 season. Now, they take their act on the road.
Montana (10-2) ran its home record to 7-0 last Friday with a 67-51 victory over Western Michigan, its fifth straight win. The venue won't be so friendly Sunday afternoon, when Montana takes on West Coast Conference member Gonzaga (6-6) at Martin Centre - better known as "The Kennel" - in Spokane, Wash.
Tip-off is 2 p.m., MST.
UM travels to Colorado State Tuesday night before closing its non-conference schedule Saturday at home against No. 25 Utah.
"We're hoping to build on this," Coach Robin Selvig said after his club's impressive showing against Western Michigan, an NCAA tournament team last season. "This is a testing stretch, and that's the way we want it. We're trying to get better with conference play coming up."
Montana has split its only road games, losing narrowly at Oregon (ranked No. 22 at the time) before bouncing back to defeat Portland. UM won two out of three on a neutral floor at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Hawaii, defeating Syracuse and Hartford before losing by 39 points to Texas, which was ranked No. 2.
Gonzaga returns four starters from a team that finished second in the WCC, and was picked second in the preseason coaches' poll. The Bulldogs are 1-2 against the Big Sky, having defeated Portland State while losing to Weber State and Eastern Washington. They've also lost to Pac-10 members Oregon and Washington.
"They've played a good schedule, and they're from a pretty good league," said Selvig, who hopes to break a three-game losing streak at Gonzaga. "They're a good transition team, so we have to be aware of getting back on defense. The other thing is they're a fairly physical team. We have to make shots. That's the way to beat a good team on the road."
Forwards Ashley Burke (13.4 points) and Ashley Anderson (11.1) are Gonzaga's top scorers, but the catalyst is All-WAC guard Shannon Mathews, a 5-6 junior who averages 7.9 points and leads the team with 51 assists. Mathews scored a season-high 23 in last Wednesday's 72-69 loss to Eastern Washington at the Spokane Arena.
Montana's 2-3 matchup zone defense has been excellent the past two games, shutting down a pair of high-scoring teams in Memphis and Western Michigan.
"Our zone has been very effectively lately," senior guard Brooklynn Lorenzen said after the Lady Griz held WMU to 29 percent shooting from the field. "Everybody's been in sync, everybody's been on the same page. In a zone defense, if one person is off, the whole thing is messed up. So it's been really nice that everyone is working hard and working together."
NOTES: Montana had four double-figure scorers against Western Michigan, only the fourth time that's happened this season. Forwards Julie Deming and Jody McLeod led the way with 15 apiece, while center Hollie Tyler had a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) for the fourth straight game. … Tyler needs just one point to become the 21st Lady Griz player to score 1,000 in her career. … Deming has 23 steals in the past six games, and 30 for the season. Reserve forward Amy Brooks is next for UM with 10. … The only Lady Griz shooting better than 45 percent from the field are Deming (.492) and Tyler (.454). … In 1993-94 the Lady Griz started out 15-2 and finished 25-5, losing at Stanford 66-62 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.