MISSOULA — Big Sky Conference play is starting earlier than normal this year, and the Montana Lady Griz kicked their schedule off with a bang as they defeated Sacramento State 75-59 on Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena.
Five Lady Griz players scored in double figures, led by freshman Haley Huard who scored 13 points off of the bench as the Lady Griz won their fifth straight game. Carmen Gfeller scored 12 points, Sophia Stiles added 11 points and 11 assists while Sammy Fatkin also scored 11 points. Abby Anderson added 10 points and seven rebounds.
"I'm just really proud of our kids," Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger said. "We went four on the road, we got to come home, it's a weird date for a conference game. This was a weird weekend so I tried to teach them earlier this week that this game is more important than Gonzaga. This means more than that game did and trying to give (them) perspective on what that means and what the conference means."
Sacramento State raced out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter but the Lady Griz clamped down and held the Hornets scoreless in the final 6:15 of the quarter as they climbed back within 12-11 after the end of the first.
Gfeller knocked down a short jumper to give the Lady Griz their first lead of the game at 16-14, and a pair of 3-pointers from Sophia Stiles sent UM into half up 36-30.
The floodgates opened in the third quarter for Montana as it outscored Sac State 24-9 as Fatkin and Huard found their rhythm on offense. UM opened the quarter on an 11-4 run, capped off by a steal from Katerina Tsineke as she found Fatkin for a layup plus the foul and free throw. Fatkin scored seven of those 11 points on that run.
After a Sac State bucket, Huard then went on her own 7-0 run to make it 54-36 with 3:09 left in the third quarter and Montana ran away from there.
The Lady Griz finished the game shooting 46% from the field and 6 for 16 from deep. Sac State (3-5, 0-1 Big Sky) shot at a 38.6% rate and was 7 for 20 from beyond the arc. The Lady Griz forced 13 Hornet turnovers to just four of their own.
The win was Holsinger's first in Big Sky Conference play.
"I think they did a good job tonight," Holsinger said. "We stayed calm. We executed, we got good shots. I knew at some point we would start hitting shots and you're not going to hold Sammy back forever. She got going, then Haley Huard got going, but we just kind of got gritty on defense. Our focus was a little bit better, our intensity was a little bit better."
UM (6-1, 1-0) will host Northern Colorado on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bears (2-4, 0-1) fell to Montana State 63-57 on Thursday.