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Lady Griz V Northern Colorado 11

Montana forward Abby Anderson goes up for a layup while Northern Colorado forward Alisha Davis attempts to block her shot during the first half of Saturday's game. Anderson was forced to leave with an ankle injury in the second half.

MISSOULA — Comparatively speaking, the Montana women's basketball team has had decent luck this season when it comes to injuries.

But it hasn't been all sunshine and roses for a team devastated by knee problems the past three years.

The Lady Griz did lose one player to a knee injury this season — Shelby Schweyen had successful surgery in Florida this week. In addition, starting guard Sophia Stiles has a nagging right shoulder injury, starting forward Abby Anderson has a sprained ankle and Madi Schoening is managing several ailments.

Anderson's health is of immediate concern as the Lady Griz prepare for Thursday's home game against Eastern Washington at 7 p.m. She was playing exceptionally well until the second half of Saturday's game against Northern Colorado when she fell to the floor and headed straight to the locker room.

Montana (8-5) is hungry to atone for its loss to the Bears and snap a six-game losing streak against the Eagles (2-10). That and the fact the Lady Griz are in second place in the Big Sky Conference at 3-1 gives them ample motivation to take care of business at home.

"We've lost some close ones to Eastern the last couple years, so this is a real big one for us," UM coach Shannon Schweyen said. "Obviously you want to bounce back after a tough loss. This is a very important one for us.

"... I think every team deals with (injuries) a little bit. That's just part of how it goes. I'm proud of the way our girls are battling. Some of our kids are playing a lot of minutes and they're playing hard. That's all you can ask."

The loss to Northern Colorado knocked the Lady Griz off the top of the Big Sky heap and left them looking for answers offensively after a disappointing 18-for-59 shooting performance.

"Starting out we had a bunch (of shots) just rolling around the rim and they didn't go down," coach Schweyen said.

"Our post feeding hurt us. We had a lot of post feeds that they knocked away. It's an area we have to improve on. Then we end up with 16 turnovers. They started doubling Emma (Stockholm) in the post some and feeding in there we just floated some passes."

The young Eagles (1-2 conference) have looked vulnerable with two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup. They've lost all six of their road games and none have been close — unless you count a 66-55 loss at Kansas City as a close game.

They have, however, shown potential. Back in mid-December, they dropped a 63-61 home decision to Boise State (12-5). That game was tied with 5 seconds left.

"They're always very physical," coach Schweyen said. "They've got a big-sized body in the post and then they've got some girls that are shooting quite well.

"They've had some kids who haven't showed up in the boxes for whatever reason and we don't really know what's going on. It will be interesting to see who shows up Thursday."

Eastern ranks dead last in the Big Sky in scoring, averaging 54.1 points per game, and dead last in field goal percentage (32.9). Montana ranks seventh in scoring (67.9) and fourth in shooting percentage (42.1).

Montana will need to pay attention on the perimeter because the Eagles love to launch the ball from 3-point range. They've connected for 91 treys, which is second most in the Big Sky, but they rank ninth in consistency from behind the arc, hitting 29.4 percent of their attempts.

With tough road games at Portland State and Idaho coming up next week, the last thing the Lady Griz want is to drop Thursday's home contest. Look for Montana to be focused from the opening tip, working hard to avoid a repeat of Saturday when it spotted Northern Colorado an 8-0 lead.

"This league is going to be tough," Schweyen said. "Everyone is going to be jumping up and knocking people off left and right.

"We just have to learn from (Saturday) and keep getting better. That's the key to getting through the length of the season to the goal at the end. I love our team and the way they're playing together."

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Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 13 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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