MISSOULA — It goes without saying Jace Henderson will get a lot of attention Thursday night.
The senior post scored a career-high 31 points in leading the Montana women's basketball team to a thrilling upset win over Idaho last month in Missoula. After the game, Vandals veteran coach Jon Newlee expressed regret for not adjusting when it became apparent Henderson was killing his team in the paint.
The question is: How will the Lady Griz respond on the road tonight when Idaho focuses on taking Henderson out of the offensive equation? Certainly Montana could have done a better job adjusting Saturday when Montana State did the same thing in a 74-52 home blowout win over the Lady Griz.
To say Montana needs to shoot better from the perimeter when Henderson is being double-teamed is to over-simplify matters. There's more to it, according to Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen.
"We need more movement," she said. "I think we were a little bit stale and stagnant in that (Montana State) game. We've got to get more movement from cutters and screening away and finding seams and things like that.
"I didn't feel like our post players demanded the ball. Jace typically demands the ball down there. We got to demand the ball in the paint more. Have more of a post presence besides just Jace."
Schweyen has stressed in practice this week that her team play with more energy. In looking over the film of Saturday's contest, she saw a lack of aggressiveness on the boards and on defense.
"There's a lot of people standing around and backpedaling when the ball is being shot," the coach said. "Those are things that involve effort. Our effort has to be better. Great teams find ways to win when they're not shooting the ball well."
Beating Idaho a second time is easier said than done.
The explosive Vandals lead the Big Sky Conference in average points per game (83.4), field goal percentage (44.0) and three-point field goals (121). They boast the best one-two scoring combination in the league in sharpshooters Taylor Pierce and Mikayla Ferenz, who are both averaging more than 21 points per game in Big Sky action.
Montana's best bet is to repeat what it did on Jan. 19 — try its best to contain Pierce and Ferenz and try to exploit the Idaho defense by pushing the ball inside for high-percentage looks.
"It's so crazy, they're shooting something that you're just kind of looking at your bench like, 'Did she just pull that?' And they're making them, too," Henderson said of the long-range bombs Pierce and Ferenz shoot on a semi-regular basis. "You just have to understand every shot they take is a good shot. We have to try to eliminate their rhythm."
The Lady Griz have 10 games remaining on their league slate, so there's still plenty of time to creep back into the No. 5 spot in the standings, thereby securing a first-round bye in the Big Sky tourney. Right now Montana sits in sixth, just a half game behind No. 5 Montana State.
Henderson is optimistic her team will respond in a positive way coming off Saturday's misery in Bozeman.
"You don't want to leave there feeling the way we did, but it's a learning process," she said. "I know this team is going to take it as a learning thing for us to move on and then go get Idaho.
"I think we have a lot of area to improve in the next month but I know our girls are determined to get there, so I'm excited."
NOTES: Lady Griz reserve guard Katie Mayhue left Saturday's game at Montana State with an injury to her ankle. If Mayhue is unable to go, the Lady Griz will be down to four available guards (not including walk-on Lee Camel) ... Montana is 3-6 on the road and the three teams it beat on the road all have losing records (Weber State, Sacramento State and Grand Canyon) ... Montana has lost five of its last seven while Idaho is on a four-game roll and sits just a half-game out of first in the Big Sky ... The Vandals are 5-1 at home this season.