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The Weber State University women’s basketball team lost a close battle on Saturday afternoon to the University of Montana Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies came out strong to start the game, scoring 10 unanswered points over an eight-minute span. The Wildcats struggled early with their field goal percentage and finished the half only shooting 2-26 from the field.
The Wildcats came out of a timeout with renewed energy and more aggression midway through the half and began a run of their own. They attacked the basket and went on an 8-2 run, and finished the half outscoring the Grizzlies 17-12.
When asked what Wildcat coach Bethann Ord said to them in the timeout, freshman Jalen Carpenter said, “She just told us to relax and just play. Keep playing defense and your offense will come. I think that’s really what got us, playing defense, and our offense came.”
Defense was a major factor in the run. The Wildcats had good pressure and forced some missed shots and turnovers, keeping the game close.
“I’m very proud of our effort,” Ord said. “Obviously, defensively we brought it, and that’s what kept us in and alive and fighting. We stuck to our game plan, and I thought we did a great job. Our defense really kept us in it.”
The Wildcats got into early foul trouble, getting into the bonus midway through the first half, but were able, for the most part, to keep UM off of the free-throw line. UM shot 5-7 from the free-throw line.
Free throws were the lifeblood for the Wildcats in the first half. They shot 13-16 from the line, with freshman Kalie Matthews converting all four of her free-throw attempts. The Wildcats finished the half down 22-17.
Grizzly senior Katie Baker led all scorers with seven points, and added two blocks and three assists. Junior Jordan Sullivan added five points and seven rebounds for the Grizzlies.
Matthews finished with four points and added eight rebounds for the Wildcats. Freshman guard Desiree Ramos also finished with four points and pulled down five rebounds, scoring both field goals for the Wildcats.
The second half started much the same way the first half ended. The Wildcats continued to be aggressive, attacking the basket and getting good passes in transition. The Wildcats took their first lead of the game with 16 minutes left in the game, off a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Brianna Averette.
The game went back and forth for the next 11 minutes, with both teams changing leads seemingly every possession.
The Grizzlies went on a run with five minutes to go, outscoring the Wildcats by nine, taking the lead 49-43. The Wildcats came back with a run of their own, scoring six unanswered points in the span of about a minute, tying the game up at 49 all.
The Grizzlies took the lead for good with two minutes left, converting a 3-pointer and a 3-point play in successive possessions, bringing the lead to six. The Wildcats tried to create turnovers and fouls, hoping the Grizzlies would miss their free throws, but to no avail, as the Grizzlies knocked down all their free throws in the final minute. The final score read 61-53 in favor of UM.
The game was tied five times, and there were 10 lead changes in the game. After shooting just 8 percent from the field in the first half, the Wildcats shot 54.5 percent in the second half. The Wildcat defense held the Grizzlies to 27 percent shooting in the game.
Baker finished with a game-high 18 points for the Grizzlies, while senior guard Kenzie De Beor added 15 points, six of those coming from the free-throw line.
Carpenter led the Wildcats in scoring, racking up a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ramos added 10 points and two assists. Matthews chipped in eight points and had a game-high 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.
“We are used to playing 20 minutes, and today we played 40 minutes, and we played hard the whole 40 minutes,” Carpenter said. “I feel like if we keep playing how we’re playing from now on — ’cause we play everybody again — that we should get some wins. This should be a statement to everyone that Weber State — we’re not playing. We are coming out with a vengeance for everyone.”
The Wildcats will continue their home stand this Thursday against the University of North Dakota. The game will be at 7 p.m. in the Dee Events Center.