Idaho outscored Montana 40-19 in the second half to pull away for a 75-50 victory on Saturday afternoon at Cowan Spectrum in Moscow to complete the season sweep of the Lady Griz.
The Vandals (10-10, 5-4 BSC) led by just four, 35-31, at the half but opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run to start to pull away. Idaho shot 51.9 percent in the second half and led by 10 or more the final 13 minutes.
“It was a really good first half, then I don’t know what happened. Our focus just wasn’t there the second half,” said coach Shannon Schweyen. “The intensity wasn’t there when we came back out. We were a step slow on things.”
Montana got scoring from nine different players on 46.2 percent shooting in the first half and went 5 for 8 from 3-point range to stay even with high-scoring Idaho through the opening 20 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Rachel Staudacher put the Lady Griz up 26-25 midway through the second quarter, but Geraldine McCorkell scored six of her 12 first-half points in the final three minutes before halftime to give the Vandals a 35-31 lead at the break.
“I thought we executed some things nicely in the first half and got good shots,” said Schweyen, whose team would cool off to 29 percent shooting in the second half. “We were sharing the ball and moving it.”
Then halftime happened.
Aided by three Montana turnovers, Idaho scored 11 points in less than four minutes to open the second half and built a 46-33 advantage. A 6-0 run later in the period made it 56-40, and the Vandals led 57-42 going into the fourth.
“That’s the difference between good teams and great teams,” said Schweyen. “When things aren’t going well, great teams find a way to battle and stay focused, and I thought we kind of gave up a little. We didn’t have the intensity we needed.”
Idaho made 14 3-pointers in its 86-59 win at Missoula three weeks ago but went just 3 for 12 from the arc in the first half, with McCorkell doing most of her scoring near the basket.
The Vandals, who rank fourth nationally at more than 10 triples per game, looked more like themselves in the second half, going 6 for 14 from distance.
“They are a nightmare to guard, because they spread it out and put it down. They’ve got kids who can finish, so it’s close-out city all night long, and they wore us down,” said Schweyen.
“You almost have to score with them to stay in it, and we didn’t do that.”
Idaho point guard Karlee Wilson had her second big game of the season against Montana, finishing with 18 points, six assists and five steals, all game highs. She also went 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
“That’s two games in a row she’s hurt us,” said Schweyen. “She’s able to get to the hole and make tough shots, and then she made outside shots today as well.”
McCorkell finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Taylor Pierce added 10 off the bench.
The Vandals scored 75 points even though Montana held Mikayla Ferenz, the Big Sky’s second-leading scorer and last week’s Big Sky Player of the Week, to nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.
“You definitely have to decide what you’re going to give up when you play them,” said Schweyen, “because they have a lot of scorers and weapons. We did a pretty good job on Ferenz, but other kids hurt us.”
McKenzie Johnston led Montana, which finished at 36.8 percent shooting, with 11 points. Staudacher scored seven points off the bench.
“Kenzie had a really solid ball game, and we got good contributions from the bench,” said Schweyen. “I thought Rachel had a fantastic game. And we had some other kids come in and do some good things at times.”
Hailey Nicholson was a force against the Vandals when they won at Dahlberg Arena earlier this month. She scored a season-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. On Saturday she had four points and four turnovers while playing just 13 minutes.
“We watched video of the first game, and Hailey absolutely clinic-ed them. She caught it and was going around them in the post and scoring it inside and out,” said Schweyen.
“Tonight was a different ball game, and that’s what you get when you play freshmen. You hope that once they have one or two breakout games they’ll get over the hump and be ready to go every night. But the reality is that’s not always the case.”
Montana will open the back half of its Big Sky schedule next week with its first meeting of the season against Montana State (15-5, 8-2 BSC). The Lady Griz and Bobcats will play next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
MSU will go into the game red hot, with four straight wins and seven wins in its last eight. The Bobcats swept the Idaho-Eastern Washington trip, winning 66-61 at Moscow on Thursday and 72-61 at Cheney on Saturday, using a 19-6 third quarter to blow the game open.
“They’ve got a good ball club,” said Schweyen. “A lot of our freshmen will get to play in their very first Bobcat-Griz game. Hopefully our older kids, even though we don’t have that many veterans, will try to let the younger kids know how important this is and how neat the rivalry is.”
In other league games Saturday afternoon, Idaho State held off Weber State in Pocatello, 57-52, Northern Colorado remained perfect in league, winning 74-55 over Southern Utah in Greeley, and North Dakota defeated Northern Arizona in Grand Forks, 88-69.
Joining Montana State with a road win on Saturday was Sacramento State, which outscored Portland State 27-10 in the fourth quarter to win 77-68 at the Stott Center.