MISSOULA — From the onset it was apparent the Montana Lady Griz had a score to settle with Eastern Washington.
Dropping a two-point nailbiter on the Eagles’ home court a month ago never sat well. So Montana did something about it Saturday afternoon, jumping ahead early and staying there in a 76-51 blowout win in front of 3,456 ecstatic basketball fans at Dahlberg Arena.
“It kind of left a sore spot in my mind that last game against them,” said Lady Griz senior forward Katie Baker, who enjoyed a monster game with 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
“It was kind of like a mentality of not being satisfied with where we’re at and realizing we seniors don’t have a whole lot of these home games left. The crowd support was so huge and I’m just so proud of everyone contributing the way they did. It’s a great day to be a Griz.”
Montana pushed its winning streak to five games and maintained sole possession of first place in the Big Sky Conference with a mark of 10-2 (16-5 overall). Eastern Washington dropped from second place to third at 8-4, 12-9.
The Lady Griz matched their best shooting effort of the season in hitting 30 of 62 shots from the floor (48.4 percent). That and a scrappy, physical brand of man defense proved too much for the smaller Eagles to overcome.
“I thought Montana came out really focused and really ready to play,” said Eastern coach Wendy Schuller, whose team trailed 40-27 at halftime. “In a way we looked a little bit mentally and physically tired and just a step slow in a lot of places.
“Montana played really well. I think they got physical with our little guards and it paid dividends for them. We have to be able to handle that level of physicality better.”
All 12 Lady Griz players made it into the scoring column, with Kenzie De Boer joining Baker in double figures at 12 points. In contrast, Eastern shot 36.5 percent (19 for 52) and its leading scorer, former Lady Griz guard Lexie Nelson of Butte, was 1 for 5 from the floor with three turnovers.
Portland State 75, Montana State 72
The Montana State women continued their free fall out of first place with their third straight loss, falling to lowly Portland State at home on Saturday.
The Bobcats (14-5, 8-4 Big Sky) are now two games behind leading Montana after being outscored 34-24 in the paint on Saturday and allowing the Vikings (10-11, 4-8 Big Sky) to shoot 62 percent in the second half.
Kalli Durham led Montana State with 21 points int he defeat.
Portland State’s balanced effort was led by Courtney VanBrocklin with 16 points and Angela Misa with 15 points.