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Montana Lady Griz to be tested at North Dakota State Saturday night

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Lady Griz vs. Gonzaga 08

Montana’s Sammy Fatkin (00) scored 25 points in Thursday's win at North Dakota. The Lady Griz will play at North Dakota State Saturday.

MISSOULA — Coach Brian Holsinger's positive outlook and competitive fire seem to be serving him well in his first season as coach of the Montana women's basketball team.

“We didn’t come here to get one,” he said after his team won its first of two games in a North Dakota swing this week, "we came to get two."

The Lady Griz (2-1) picked up their first win over an NCAA Division I foe on Thursday, cruising past North Dakota in Grand Forks, 72-51. It probably won't be as easy when they play at North Dakota State Saturday night at 6 p.m. in Fargo.

While North Dakota was picked to finish ninth in the Summit League, North Dakota State is pegged to finish third behind mid-major powerhouses South Dakota and South Dakota State. The Bison are off to a rocky start at 1-2, but on Wednesday they pushed Northern Iowa — a team ranked No. 25 in the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll — before falling, 76-63.

North Dakota State has lost two in a row since winning at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in its opener. The team will no doubt be doing some soul searching before Saturday's game.

“There’s an arrogance, maybe, that doesn’t need to be there that we haven’t earned or deserved at all and that may be part of our problem,” NDSU coach Jory Collins told inforum.com after Wednesday's loss.

The Bison piled up 19 turnovers against Northern Iowa, so that will no doubt be a point of emphasis this weekend. Montana will try to get after it defensively behind Sophia Stiles, a senior guard that has a knack for piling up steals.

North Dakota certainly didn’t get much going offensively against Montana, particularly on the perimeter. The Fighting Hawks (0-3) went 3 for 18 from the arc and were credited with just two assists while turning the ball over 18 times. 

Montana had 15 assists on its 30 made field goals. 

“You always take it,” Holsinger said. “You celebrate every victory. We fight for everything we get. That’s what this program is going to be known for.”

The Bison are led by junior guard Heaven Hamling, who earned a spot on the preseason All-Summit League second team after being named the Summit League Newcomer of the Year last season. The Grand Rapids, Minnesota native appeared in all 24 games last season and tallied double digits in points in 17 games. Hamling also shot 41.9 percent from behind the arc, which ranked 27th in the country.

After Saturday, the Lady Griz will fly back to Missoula before hitting the road again in the middle of next week. They are slated to play in the Grand Canyon Women's Basketball Classic in Phoenix on Friday versus Houston Baptist and Saturday versus Nicholls State.

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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