Lady Dawgs end week on high note

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Strong move to the bucket

UMW’s Brynley Fitzgerald shakes off her defender and moves toward the basket during her Bulldog’s rout of Montana State University-Northern on Saturday in Dillon. M.P. Regan photo

The University of Montana Western women’s basketball team elevated its game for a big home win on Saturday afternoon, two days after taking a fall in Great Falls.

The Lady Bulldogs improved to 11-4 overall and 2-2 in the Frontier Conference by throttling Montana State University-Northern, 69-41, at Straugh Gymnasium in Dillon on Saturday afternoon.

The Dawgs doubled-up MSUN in Saturday’s first half to establish a 19-point lead the visitors never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Brynley Fitzgerald started the scoring, snaring a teammate’s missed 3-point effort and laying in the follow up to set the tone of a game in which UMW enjoyed distinctive advantages in shooting percentage (42.2 percent to 14.6 percent) and rebounding (45 to 37).

“We got a sense of urgency early in the game and started really moving the ball well,” said UMW’s Jenni Weber, whose team doubled up MSUN, 38-19, by halftime.

“Nothing really fell for us in Great Falls,” recalled Weber of her Lady Bulldogs’ performance two days before at the University of Providence, where the Western women shot just 22 of 58 (37.9 percent) as the Lady Argos surged to a 68-57 victory.

“But tonight we came out on fire. We hit a lot more of our shots, and that made the difference,” said Weber, who led her team’s perimeter attack by nailing 4 of 5 efforts from downtown and team high 14 points.

“Everyone made tough shots and we moved the ball well,” said Weber, who played as a point guard in her high school days before converting to shooting guard.

“I came from a place with a lot of taller players, so I knew from the get-go I would be a guard,” said the product of basketball-rich Chicago who practiced by putting up 600 shots from downtown each day—and proved untroubled by the moving back of the 3-point line this season.

“I hated having my toes on the line in high school, so I always shot from at least a foot beyond the 3-point line,” laughed Weber, who has hit almost 40 percent of her efforts (40 of 102)) from deep this season.

“So the change for this season really did not affect me.”

Weber’s long-distance sniping established an immediate impact on Saturday’s game against MSUN, as she bulls-eyed her first three shots from downtown to help UMW to a 24-11 lead.

The Bulldogs found plenty of other ways to score on Saturday, including off a slick backdoor bounce pass from Lilly Gopher to her old high school teammate Joelnell Momberg for a reverse layup that pushed the hosts’ lead to 28 points in the third quarter.

UMW guard Jayden Winslow buried a trey and all doubts about the game’s outcome just under two minutes into the fourth quarter to give the hosts a 35-point advantage.

The Western defense made it difficult for the Northern Lights (0-4, 7-11) to score for much of the game, limiting their guest to 14 points and 17.1 percent field goal shooting (6 of 35) across the second and third quarters.

Swept up in the surge of illnesses that even kept their Head Coach Lindsey Woolley out of the game, the Western women found scoring difficult on Thursday in Great Falls against the University of Providence (16-3, 3-1).

Providence ran out to an early ninepoint lead on its home court.

The Lady Bulldogs did rally in the third quarter, taking a one-point lead on a trey by Syndey Sheridan just under two minutes into the second half.

But a 16-5 fourth quarter run by Providence secured the Lady Argos the win.

“We’ve had a lot of people sick and some out with injury, Coach Woolley got sick, too,” said Weber of her team’s stop-and-go start to 2022.

“We didn’t get any full practices in, that may have had something to do with us losing Thursday.”

Fitzgerald led UMW with 19 points on Thursday in Great Falls, where Sheridan added a dozen points and teammate Mesa King pulled down 9 rebounds.

Next up for the Lady Bulldogs, a halfway across the state and all the way up and down the league standings.

UMW will travel to Billings to take on league-leading Rocky Mountain College (15-1, 4-0) on Thursday, Jan. 13, at 5 p.m. before heading to Butte to play Montana Tech (9-10, 0-4). Currently tied with Providence in second place in the league, defending Frontier champs Carroll College (15-3, 3-1) awaits the following week in Helena.

“I think this next stretch of games will be tough,” said Weber.

“But we’ll be ready for it.”