Montana Lady Griz shoots for first win over NCAA Division I opponent Sunday | UM Grizzlies

MISSOULA — Armed with the momentum and confidence that came from their best performance of the young season on Tuesday, the Montana women’s basketball team will be aiming higher Sunday afternoon when they host North Dakota.

The Lady Griz used an impressive 24-point performance from Sammy Fatkin to finish off NAIA Providence four days ago. But beating an NCAA Division I team is generally a bigger task, both literally and figuratively, and the Fighting Hawks are no pushovers, with victories over Detroit Mercy and Wyoming to their credit.

The lingering question for Montana fans is the same as it was last month: when will the team’s top player, Carmen Gfeller, return to the roster? She spent part of the off-season in hiking boots but attended pre-game warm-ups and is expected back any day now.

Lady Griz fans need to tune in on Sunday to find out if that’s the day.

“Some things that Carmen is doing we don’t have right now,” Montana coach Brian Holsinger told “You don’t want to change your offense. But you also want to try and update the other kids on some things.

“Some of the things we do are probably better for Carmen and not as good for other people, but we’ll get them back. It was a bit of a mystery (without Gfeller) and we worked to figure it out.”

Fifth grader Fatkin’s mission is to lead a team that is 0-2 against Division I opponents and 1-2 overall. She leads Montana in scoring (16 pp) and is second in rebounds (19 in three games).

“It’s definitely a different perspective for me this season, a different role,” she said. “I can definitely feel that.

“I think I’m just super grateful to my teammates that we’re all taking on our roles. There’s always pressure and responsibility, but I’m grateful for that and want to make sure I’m doing things right for my team-mates.”

Montana won 72-51 in North Dakota last November. Fatkin had 25 points and three steals, so you know the Hawks will be eyeing their Sunday.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Holsinger about the competition on Sunday at 2 p.m. “A chance to get back in front of our fans. They’re a solid side. We beat them in their place last year but we have to do our best.”

North Dakota (2-1) is led by senior guard Kacie Borowicz. The former Miss Basketball Minnesota was named to the first team of the Preseason All-Summit League for the 2022-23 season. The Hawks are selected to finish fourth in the league.

The Hawks’ trip to Dahlberg Arena is part of a two-game tour of the Treasure State. They lost 77-66 in Montana State Friday night, despite 20 points from Borowicz. North Dakota led by a bucket at halftime but struggled with his shooting and finished the field 27-75.

Bill Speltz is the Missoulian Sports Editor and has been a Sunday columnist for the past 16 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at [email protected]