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Lady Griz vs. Carroll

Montana's McKenzie Johnston works her way into the paint in the fourth quarter of last week's exhibition game. The point guard will lead the Lady Griz into their final exhibition contest against Black Hills State Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena.

MISSOULA — With a daunting pre-conference schedule starting Monday, the Montana women's basketball team has some important stuff to figure out.

Coach Shannon Schweyen is hoping Tuesday night will provide some answers — or at least a few valuable clues. The Lady Griz will host NCAA Division II Black Hills State in their second and final exhibition game at 7 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena.

Personnel decisions need to be made.

True freshman guard Sophia Stiles was going to redshirt but that may change because Montana's leading scorer from last year, guard Taylor Goligoski, is day-to-day with a nagging leg/quadriceps injury. One non-freshman may end up redshirting instead, joining true freshman forward Abby Anderson, who will sit out the season and has been sidelined lately by an injury suffered in an automobile accident.

"After watching the Carroll game last week, you find some areas where you feel like you need to improve," said Schweyen, whose team will make its official debut at Wyoming Monday night.

"We were a little surprised to see that much zone out of Carroll, so we didn't get to run much of our man stuff. I'm secretly hoping we see some more man so we get a chance to execute things and see where we're at against somebody that doesn't know our system. Then defensively we need to be improving our ball pressure, blocking out and transition D."

Montana has just one senior on its roster, post Mekayla Isaak. Consequently, Schweyen needs underclassmen to step forward and help Isaak in leadership roles.

"Kenzie (Johnston) is a natural floor leader on this team for sure, just with the year she had last year and the way she progressed as a point guard," Schweyen noted. "I would hope she's become a little more vocal out there and understands it's her job and she has the reins to take charge. We need to improve on our communication. It's hard to get freshmen to talk."

Montana has never played Black Hills State. Schweyen said she picked up a second exhibition game "kind of late" and some of the Frontier Conference teams that UM typically faces had already filled up their schedules.

"They've got their leading scorer back from last year (senior guard Rachel Erickson) and four or five other girls that got some experience last year," Schweyen said of the Yellow Jackets, who are led by 16-year coach Mark Nore.

"It will be interesting because we'll have to learn as we go with them. They're a different type of team as far as their sets and things we haven't seen yet. It will be a challenge."

One reason Schweyen may play Stiles rather than redshirt the Malta product is her defensive skills. Montana is going to need all the help it can get in that area when it faces Wyoming, Kentucky and Gonzaga next week.

"Sophia's on-ball (defense) is pretty darn good," the coach said. "She's got good quickness, she's long, she can get her hands on passes and she's pretty heady on D for a freshman.

"We're thinking she can help us. But it's such a dilemma. Are you going to get her enough minutes?"

Notes: Black Hills State was 9-17 last season ... The Yellow Jackets are based in Spearfish, South Dakota ... Lady Griz redshirt freshman post Caitlin Lonergan, who transferred from Montana State where she played volleyball last fall, is ineligible to play in exhibition and regular-season games until the second semester (provided her grades are satisfactory).

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