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Gonzaga women continue string of games against Big Sky opponents at Montana

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 13, 2021

It might surprise fans of Gonzaga women’s basketball, but the Zags have lost more than they’ve won against Montana.

Going into Sunday’s nonconference matchup in Missoula, the ledger stands 17-15 in favor of the Lady Griz. GU, however, has taken the past eight meetings, which says a lot about the state of both programs these days.

The Zags have dominated the West Coast Conference and reached the NCAA Tournament 11 out of the past 12 seasons – that despite a coaching change midway through that run, as Lisa Fortier took over from Kelly Graves in 2014.

It’s been the opposite story at Montana.

Two years after Graves left GU for Oregon, coach Robin Selvig retired after 38 years and handed the reins to assistant Shannon Schweyen.

The most decorated player in Big Sky Conference history, the former Shannon Cate posted only one winning season out of four. Amid a wave of player departures, she was fired in March 2020.

For the first time in almost four decades, the Lady Griz are in rebuilding mode.

Former assistant Mike Petrino took over for one year before yielding to new coach Brian Holsinger, a former assistant at Oregon State. Also on the staff is Joslyn Tinkle, the older sister of former GU star Elle Tinkle and the daughter of former UM men’s coach Wayne Tinkle.

Meanwhile, the Zags are in one-game-at-a-time mode as they open the season with three consecutive opponents from the Big Sky.

“I think one thing is making sure we don’t worry about our opponents and just focus on ourselves,” GU forward Yvonne Ejim said earlier this week.

With defending national champion Stanford visiting the Kennel on Nov. 21, that isn’t easy.

“I am waiting for the Stanford game,” Ejim said.

The sophomore from Calgary, Alberta, stuffed those thoughts long enough to have her biggest game as a Zag in Thursday’s 72-47 home win over Montana State.

Ejim (14 points, eight rebounds) was one of four players scoring in double figures, leaving the Griz unable to focus on one player.

The Zags will take this game seriously. Less than a year ago, in their only nonconference home game, the Zags held on to beat Montana 58-51 in a game that was even closer than the final score.

The Lady Griz are coming off an 86-46 home win over Northwest Nazarene. They were led by 19 points from senior guard Sammy Fatkin, who left the team early in Schweyen’s final year but returned this summer.

Senior starter and Colfax product Carmen Gfeller added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

The Zags are home against Idaho State on Thursday. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.

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