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McKenzie for UND preview

McKenzie Johnston (32) and the Montana women's basketball team will be looking to get back on track Saturday after suffering a rare home loss Thursday against Northern Colorado. Montana will host North Dakota at 2 p.m.

MISSOULA — With the sound of silence still fresh in their memory, the Montana Lady Griz will try to turn the noise machine back on at Dahlberg Arena Saturday afternoon.

More than 3,000 fans turned out to watch Montana drop a six-point home decision to Big Sky Conference preseason favorite Northern Colorado Thursday. It was awfully quiet in the fourth quarter as the Lady Griz missed 13 of 19 shot attempts.

North Dakota is next up and the Fighting Hawks' 3-7 league mark is a little deceiving. They boast league wins over Montana State and Northern Colorado — teams that have beaten the Lady Griz in the past two weeks.

"They’re a big team," Montana point guard McKenzie Johnston said of a North Dakota squad the Lady Griz beat on Jan. 4 in Grand Forks. "(Six-foot-2 forward Lexi) Klabo is a great scorer and rebounder and great shot blocker.

"They’re going to be out to get us after beating them over there but we just have to not let up and not think because we beat them that it’s going to be an easy go. We’re going to have to come out and play hard."

Montana (7-3 conference, 11-10 overall) and North Dakota (10-11 overall) match up relatively even statistically on the offensive end. The difference has been defensively where the Lady Griz rank No. 1 in league play and the Hawks rank ninth.

On Thursday, North Dakota spotted Montana State a 35-17 halftime lead and ended up losing 72-56 in Bozeman. On Saturday afternoon the Hawks will be on the lookout for reserve forward Caitlin Lonergan, who burned them for a team-high 12 points when UM won in Grand Forks.

Montana coach Shannon Schweyen would like to see her team do a better job getting the ball inside for easier looks at the basket.

"I felt like we weren't feeding the post as much as we could have (Thursday)," she said.

Johnston believes it's a matter of mental discipline.

"Some of the plays we were trying to run at the end (Thursday) weren't executed as good as we wanted," she offered. "It was a teaching lesson for us."

With a two-game road trip staring them in the face next week, the last thing the Lady Griz want is a second straight home loss Saturday. Montana is currently in the thick of the Big Sky race, tied for second with Montana State, Northern Colorado and Idaho.


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