MISSOULA — The Montana women’s basketball team will attempt to string together its first three-game winning streak under second-year coach Shannon Schweyen.
The Lady Griz (2-5) have won back-to-back games three times under Schweyen, most recently on Friday and Saturday in the Lady Griz Classic
They’ll host the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks (6-1) 7 p.m. Thursday at Dahlberg Arena as they try to close their three-game homestand on a positive note.
“Stephen F. Austin is a really good defensive team,” Schweyen said. “We’ve got our hands full. It’ll be a good test for us in a lot of ways. They’re one of the more complete teams that we’ve played. We’ve played some teams that are athletic but maybe don’t have a lot of good shooters. These guys are all pretty athletic across the board.”
Schweyen has been impressed with her team’s improving understanding of alternating and adapting between man and zone defenses based on opposing personnel. She’s also liked the willingness of players to take more charges.
The next step for the Lady Griz is improving their shot selection and shooting percentage.
They shot a season-high 43.6 percent from the field in their 68-47 win over Cal State Fullerton on Friday. They followed that up with by connecting on a season-best 34.8 percent of their 3-point attempts in a 67-60 win against Long Beach State on Saturday.
Their offense will face a challenging 2-2-1 full-court press against Stephen F. Austin. The Ladyjacks are generating a turnover margin of plus-9.4 per game, and they’re scoring 25.4 points off turnovers.
“We’ve got to handle their press and take care of the ball as best we can,” Schweyen said. “They try to disrupt you and not let you run a lot of things, so we’ve got to take advantage when we do have numbers and break that press that we go in and get a good shot.”
Stephen F. Austin is off to 6-1 start with its only loss coming to Kansas State of the Big 12 Conference, 74-49. Since then, the Ladyjacks have won six in a row and most recently beat South Dakota of the Summit League, 77-55.
They’re scoring 80 points per game and holding opponents to 55.1 points. Their closest game was an 83-79 win against Alcorn State in overtime.
The Ladyjacks are led by fifth-year senior Stevi Parker, who paces the team with 12.6 points and 11.1 rebounds, and is second with 2.9 assists. Freshman guard Alyssa Mayfield is shooting 50 percent and adding 10.3 points. Six other players are averaging between 6.6 and 8.8 points.
Last year, the Lady Griz found success slowing Stephen F. Austin with their zone defense. They staged a comeback and held the Ladyjacks to 10 free throws and zero field goals in the fourth quarter, but they ran out of time in a 54-46 loss.
“(Parker) has a really good surrounding cast,” Schweyen said. “(Defending) will just be an effort by committee.”
Schweyen said some of the Lady Griz are dealing with sickness, but she doesn’t anticipate anybody missing the game.
After the Stephen F. Austin game, Montana will play on the road at Fresno State and will then return to Missoula for four consecutive home games.
“I would just hope we continue to keep growing,” Schweyen said. “We’re still putting things in, even this late. We’re sharpening up some things we have. We’re finding out some things about our team that we want to try to expose a little bit more, use some tools, some people.”