Like their male counterparts did a week earlier, Montana State's women won their first two games of the Big Sky Conference season last weekend after a rough 0-3 start.
Much of that success was due to the play of some veterans, as well as some rising stars.
Freshman guard Katie Bussey and sophomore forward Sarah Strand each scored 18 points in Saturday's 71-52 victory over Idaho State at Worthington Arena.
Bussey, from Alamosa, Colo., was making just her second career start. She raised her per-game scoring average to 9.4, fourth-best on the team.
Strand, from Seattle, added a career-high five 3-pointers on Saturday.
Two nights earlier in a 65-62 win over Weber State at home, it was the veterans who led the way, particularly forward Nubia Garcia and guard Erica Perry scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Garcia added 13 rebounds, while junior guard Jenny Heringer added nine boards.
"We have a bunch of different offensive weapons," MSU coach Tricia Binford told the Bozeman Chronicle. "It's exciting for a coach to have a variety of options with players stepping up."
The 6-foot-2 Garcia, who also had 16 rebounds in Saturday's win, was named the league's player of the week on Monday.
The Chihuahua, Mexico, native averaged a double-double in two games at 10.5 points and 14.5 rebounds. Garcia shot nearly 44 percent from the field.
Garcia is leading the Big Sky in rebounding at 8.8 per contest. Her 16-rebound performance on Saturday, which was a career-high, was the second-highest single-game total in the league this season. Weber State's Caitlin Anderson grabbed 17 boards at Elon on Nov. 29.
Montana State improved its record to 8-9 and 2-3 in the conference and pulled into a three-way tie with Idaho State and Northern Arizona for fifth place in the standings.
Montana and Portland State each won twice last week to improve their records to 5-0 in the conference. Like the Bobcats, Montana (16-3 overall) swept Weber State and Idaho State at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula and improved its winning streak to eight.
Montana's men are a meager 1-8 on the road this season, and the statistics tell the story.
Including Saturday's game, which they lost 71-55 at Weber State, the Griz are shooting 40.4 percent from the floor and are giving up an average of 75.6 points in road games. Both numbers rank second-to-last in the league. Montana is also averaging 15.4 turnovers on the road, also the second-worst.
The Grizzlies have lost five straight road games. They last won a road game at Fresno State on Dec. 14. They'll head to Eastern Washington on Wednesday.
"We need one of these next road games, starting maybe Wednesday, for sure," third-year coach Wayne Tinkle told the Missoulian. "We need to find a way to break through on the road and that will allow us to exhale a little bit and start to come together."
The Grizzlies' record dropped to 9-9 and 3-3 in the conference. Tinkle's mark record dipped to 40-40 since he took over for Larry Krystkowiak in 2006.
The NCAA pushed back the 3-point line a foot, from 19 feet, 9 inches, to 20 feet, 9 inches before the start of this season, but it hasn't affected teams in the Big Sky Conference to this point.
A year ago, Big Sky teams made 36.6 percent of their 3's (1,911-of-5,212). This season, teams are making the exact same percentage (1,069-of-2,918) from beyond the arc.
The league averaged 19 3-point attempts per game last year. That average is a 17.8 so far this year.
Idaho State finished last in the league a year ago at 31.1 percent. The Bengals are ninth again this year, also at 31.1 percent.
Around the league
Idaho State guard Amarrow Morgan was named as the men's player of the week. In victories over Montana and Montana State, Morgan average 17.5 points and 5.5 assists. … A week after becoming the Big Sky's all-time free throw leader, Portland State's Kelsey Kahle became her school's all-time leading scorer. Kahle, a senior, scored 23 points against Northern Colorado to improve her career total to 1,803 points. … Sac State's Loren Leath scored a career-best 41 points in a 91-73 loss to UNC on Tuesday. The point total tied Portland State's Dominic Waters for the single-game high in the league this year, and along with his nine 3's was the most by a Hornets player since the program moved to Division I in 1991.