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The Lady Griz Basketball team came within just two points late in the game against Gonzaga University in Spokane Dec. 13, but could not overcome a late rally from the nationally-ranked Bulldogs, and lost 51-58. The Bulldogs are ranked 25th in the nation. 

Montana fell to 1-2, but head coach Mike Petrino was optimistic about how the team played.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Petrino said. “Our defense was a great competitive effort, even when we were down we just kept fighting. They just made a few more plays than we did.”

Montana previously won its first game against North Dakota Dec. 7. This year’s Lady Griz team features five new transfers, and a couple freshman additions. Petrino is also a first-year head coach. 

Gonzaga came in with a record of 2-2 after close losses against top-ranked South Carolina and an overtime defeat versus South Dakota State. The veteran team featured returning senior Jill Townsen, who last season averaged 17 points on 53% shooting and is on the watchlist for a national player of the year award. 

Against Montana, Townsend shot for 2-7 from the field, and finished with 9. The first half featured strong defensive stops and forced turnovers from both teams. Montana shot at 29% from the field compared to Gonzaga’s 27%.

“It was a battle. In the first quarter they got more second chance points, and in the second quarter we got those points,” Petrino said. “We did a good job guarding without fouling them, and they are big, physical players.”

Montana committed a total of 20 fouls over the length of the game, compared to Gonzaga’s 14. Neither in each quarter was enough to get either team significantly into the bonus. Montana did give up 14 fast break points, as Gonzaga showed off its athleticism.  

Redshirt Junior Sophia Stiles made an immediate impact, including a three point play after a diving layup in the second quarter. She finished with a team leading 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. 

Montana ended the second quarter with a five point run to cut it to just a seven point lead. Its main advantage over the Bulldogs came with quick ball movement on high-low plays, rather than shooting beyond the arc like previous games. 

For the first two games for the Lady Griz, the team averaged seven threes a game, but against Gonzaga it only scored three tries off of 17 attempts. In the paint, Montana scored 28 paint points to Gonzaga’s 26.

Junior Carmen Gfeller continued her scoring streak with 12 points off of 5-12 from the field. She contributed to Montana’s 10 paint points in the fourth quarter, as Gonzaga coasted 34-46, to begin a solid 12-2 run for the Grizzlies.

With three minutes to go, Montana trailed 46-48, and even had the opportunity to take the lead off of a turnover, but Gonzaga did not sit complacent going down the stretch.

A clutch three by the Bulldog’s Kayleigh Truong with 2:48 to go separated the lead by 5, and the Lady Griz could not respond. They made some late points, but needing to stop the clock, they gave 7 FT points to Gonzaga, and fell 58-51.

“The effort was great, and credit to Gonzaga, they are a great team,” Petrino said. “We have lots to learn from it and get ready because we have to play a tough team (Seattle University) on Tuesday.” 

The Lady Griz will take on Seattle University Dec. 15.