Although the final score was nothing to smile about, Montana coach Shannon Schweyen was upbeat after Friday's loss to No. 20-ranked Marquette.
The hyper-motivated Golden Eagles, who dropped an overtime decision to No. 12 Tennessee Thursday, took it out on the Lady Griz basketball team with an 87-68 win in the Cancun (Mexico) Challenge. The good news for Montana was that Jace Henderson was named to the all-tournament list and her team enjoyed its best shooting of the season, going 26 for 63.
The not-so-good news is the Lady Griz are off to their worst start in program history at 0-5. In their defense, they've played two games against ranked foes and two more against teams that have challenged for league titles in recent years.
Montana departed the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya knowing it let one get away Thursday night against Indiana State (1-4). But at least the Lady Griz could find solace in Friday's 41.3 percent shooting.
"I mean it's funny, I know we lost," Schweyen told KGVO radio, "but I feel like we won just because it was such a better feeling tonight than it was (Thursday) night."
Marquette (2-2) is a transition team that loves to press. Montana did well to limit its turnovers to 12 but wasn't good enough defending the 3-point line in its zone defense, opening the door for the Golden Eagles to hit 13 of 26 attempts from downtown.
Junior guard Natisha Hiedeman was especially hard on UM. She hit 6 of 9 attempts from 3-point land and piled up a game-high 21 points.
"Last night she got a lot of layups and went 1 for 10 from three," Schweyen noted. "But we knew they had good shooters. They light it from three often times. They've got some weapons for sure.
"Credit to them. That's a really good basketball team."
Montana's most pleasant surprise this season has been Henderson. She leads the team in rebounds with 36 and is far and away the most consistent shooter, hitting 18 of 36 attempts.
"She played a ton of minutes and got lots of rebounds," Schweyen said of Henderson's play in Cancun. "Being named all-tournament, it couldn't have happened to a nicer kid."
Marquette set the tone in the first quarter Friday, jumping to a 22-10 lead behind a pair of triples by Hiedeman. Montana hit just 3 of its first 12 shots and Marquette hurt the Lady Griz on the boards with a 14-7 edge.
"They're every bit what they're cracked up to be," Schweyen said. "... They're not big height wise but 12 (Erika Davenport) is an amazing rebounder and their quickness all the way around is glaring."
Montana cut its deficit to 27-20 with just under five minutes left in the half. The Eagles responded with a 17-4 run fueled by three Hiedeman triples.
Marquette shot 18 for 37 in the first half and Hiedeman hit 5 of 6 shots from behind the arc in totaling 17 points. The Lady Griz were 9 for 28 shooting.
Montana failed to mount a serious comeback in the second half, although it did outscore Marquette in the third period, 19-18. The Eagles emptied their bench, with 13 athletes seeing playing time after intermission.
Marquette shot a sizzling 49.3 percent from the floor (34 for 69) overall and won the battle of the boards, 43-32. Yet Schweyen was pleased with what she saw of the Lady Griz.
"They enjoyed themselves tonight and they played so hard," she said. "It was encouraging the way they played together.
"I thought Kenz (Johnston) had a heck of a ball game. It's nice to see her have that happen. She worked so hard in the offseason."
Johnston and Madi Schoening shared team-high scoring honors with 11 pointa apiece. Johnston also had a team-high four assists.
Montana will shoot for its first win next weekend in the Lady Griz Classic. The Lady Griz will host Cal State Fullerton on Friday night and Long Beach State on Saturday night.