MISSOULA — She hears it all the time in practice.
"Coach tells me I need to shoot more," Montana forward Hailey Nicholson said of Shannon Schweyen. "She's been trying to get it out of me for a while now.
"I've been focusing on taking my open shots in practice and I think that helped a lot tonight."
Nicholson came off the bench to score 16 points on 8-for-12 shooting Thursday in sparking the Lady Griz basketball team to its biggest win of the young season. Montana snapped Stephen's F. Austin's six-game win streak with a 60-52 verdict in front of 2,578 fans at Dahlberg Arena.
The Lady Griz (3-5) have won three games in a row. It's their longest win streak since Robin Selvig's final season at the helm (2015-16).
"We keep talking all the time about how if we're going to be a good team we've got to have a little bit of swagger to us," Schweyen said. "That's not an easy thing for a group of freshmen that are now sophomores. Some of them it's not their style."
Not now, maybe. But Montana's confidence level is on the rise and it was evident in its season-best 43.5 percent shooting (24 for 55) against Stephen F. Austin (6-2).
Nicholson was one of three Lady Griz to score in double figures and nine to break into the scoring column for the hosts. Taylor Goligoski and Jace Henderson each tallied 10 points and Henderson snared a team-high nine rebounds.
Interestingly, Nicholson has found her shooting touch since being relegated to a reserve role. In Montana's last three games she has twice scored 16 and has averaged 13.3 points per contest.
"I don't mind coming off the bench," she asserted. "It just gives me a little more motivation to play hard and I'm getting more comfortable out there.
"But I also think we're playing really well together. Those wins, it helps us with our confidence and we're shooting better than we were last year."
The Ladyjacks (6-2) looked out of sorts from the start, spotting Montana a 15-6 advantage. The lead was 32-21 by halftime, thanks in part to a man defense that forced 13 turnovers and coaxed 9-for-24 shooting by the visitors.
Nicholson was the catalyst in the first half with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Henderson and Madi Schoening did their part on the boards, each grabbing four rebounds.
"It was a great start," said UM point guard McKenzie Johnston, who piled up a game-high seven assists. "We played them last year and we definitely didn't play like we did tonight.
"Everyone is getting points up and it's not like we're relying on certain people. People have been in the gym and it's showing.
Coached by former Montana State assistant Mark Kellogg, the Ladyjacks made a run at Montana early in the third frame with a 6-2 spurt. The Lady Griz answered with a pair of Henderson baskets and their lead was back to 38-27.
The Ladyjacks's top scorer, senior forward Stevi Parker, didn't scored until late in the third quarter. Teammate Chanell Hayes did her best to pick up the slack with a game-high 17 points, but her teammates were ice cold and Montana managed to score countless baskets by burning Stephen F. Austin's press.
"They're in the top 25 or so in the country in turnovers caused a game," Schweyen noted. "Sophia (Stiles, UM guard) was phenomenal against that thing tonight. Single-handedly she was coming down and making the right pass every time and creating scoring opportunities for Hailey (Nicholson) and Taylor (Goligoski). We did a really nice job against it."
Likewise, Schweyen was proud of her team's defense.
"They run a lot of really good stuff," she noted. "We watched them clinic South Dakota, which is a really good team.
"We talked about how we were going to cover their different things and the girls I thought did a wonderful job on it. They were talking, communicating. I felt like the man defense was good tonight."