MISSOULA, Mont. Former Sandpoint standout Madi Schoening scored 12 first-quarter points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting to stake Montana to a big early lead, and the Lady Griz rode it all the way to the finish line, a 68-59 home win over Sacramento State on Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena that moved them back into a tie atop the Big Sky Conference.
Montana (8-8, 4-1 BSC) hit nine of its first 11 shots and led 25-8 after the first quarter, making as many shots in the period (12) as the Hornets (3-12, 1-3 BSC) attempted, thanks to 70 percent shooting. The Griz have now won five of their last six games, with Schoening also posting 15 points and eight rebounds recently against Southern Utah.
Schoening scored all six of her first-quarter baskets in the paint, blending a soft touch with some athletic finishes. While at Sandpoint, her ability to finish with either hand in transition was her biggest weapon, and she showed a lot of the same skills against the Hornets.
She was the story of the night. Talk about setting the tone, said UM coach Shannon Schweyen. We talked in the locker room about coming out ready to go and getting off to a good start, and Madi came out absolutely on fire. She single-handedly took it to them and had some difficult finishes around the basket. She gave us a feeling that we could take a deep breath.
By halftime it was 45-25, but no lead is ever safe against the Hornets, who get every second out of every 40-minute game with their changing pressure defensives and 3-point shooting.
Sacramento State had the lead down to 11 late in the third quarter before who else? Schoening scored four points sandwiched around a Sophia Stiles 3-pointer to build the lead back to 18, 60-42, going into the fourth.
Schoening finished with a season-high 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting, and also grabbed eight rebounds, six on the offensive end.
Montana faces Portland State tonight in Missoula.