A week ago the Lady Griz grinned on the Dahlberg Arena court as they won the Big Sky Conference championship at home. Saturday, the glow of wining disappeared as an emotional senior Katie Baker talked about their first-round NCAA tournament 70-50 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
“Like coach said, they just made some plays and big plays and basketball is a game of runs,” Baker said. “You know, you’re not in it all the time. They got a big momentum swing their way, a couple fast breaks, a couple big shots, hit a couple big threes and that just like that they are ahead again. But that’s basketball for you.”
Momentum was on Georgia’s side through the whole game. In the second half after senior Kenzie De Boer hit a jumper Georgia went on a seven-point run. Lady Griz head coach Robin Selvig said that Georgia had quick transitions to score and Montana didn’t.
When the Lady Griz came out of the locker room, the Bulldogs had as seven-point lead. Montana opened the half with a 3-pointer from senior Alyssa Smith. Baker followed a few minutes later with a jumper to ignite the crowd as Montana came within three. Montana got within two early in the second half, but Georgia pulled away the rest of the game.
Georgia’s two leading seniors, Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James led the Bulldogs in scoring. Hassell put up a game high 16 points and James chipped in 11 points with four boards. Freshman Shacobie Barbee had a big first half and added 13 points and seven rebounds.
It was Barbee’s first NCAA tournament appearance.
“It was everything I expected, especially playing against Montana,” said Barbee, who will play Iowa State Monday in the second- round NCAA game. “All the coaches already said that they were going to be physical, and they brought all that physicality to the game. It was just a good feeling.”
The tough and tall Bulldogs were able to contain Montana’s signature physical defense that helped them this year. The Bulldogs had 11 turnovers compared to Montana’s 20 and shot 29.3 percent from the field. Montana did out-rebound the Bulldogs 43 to 37.
Torry Hill led the team in scoring with 11 points and several of her baskets swayed momentum toward Montana. Fellow junior forward Jordan Sullivan chipped in eight points and added five boards. Montana’s leading scorer senior Kenzie De Boer, who averaged 13.5 points per game during the regular season, was contained to only 4 points and went 2-for-9 from the field.
As the possibility of a victory slipped away from Montana, some of the team’s younger players got playing minutes. Freshman McCalle Feller played and redshirt freshman Hannah Doran added three points to Montana’s effort. Selvig said the chance to play in the NCAA tournament motives the younger players to come back.
The Lady Griz are now 7-19 in tournament games, with their last NCAA game win coming in 1995. They were a No. 12 seed and knocked off No. 5 seed San Diego.
This was also the final game for three of Montana’s starters: De Boer, Baker and Smith. Their absence will leave a gap in Montana’s lineup next year with the experience and skill they added. De Boer and Baker both topped the scoring charts and Smith brought her tall physique to the court.
Missing from the game was freshman Shanae Gilham. She sat on the sidelines with a knee brace on after injuring her knee last Saturday in the Big Sky Conference championship game.
The program will lose four seniors who Selvig said were always competing like crazy in practice.
“They are serious basketball players,” Selvig said. “They want to win, they want to compete, they want to get better and they are great people. I mean, it’s all you can ask for as a coach.”