Montana's Carmen Gfeller named women's basketball Big Sky Player of the Week

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Posted at 1:59 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 15:59:15-05

(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics press release)

MISSOULA—Carmen Gfeller has been named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after helping the Montana women's basketball team to a pair of road wins last week.

Gfeller, a junior forward from Colfax, Wash., averaged 13 points on 70.6 percent shooting and 10 rebounds in Montana's wins over North Dakota and North Dakota State.

It's the first Player of the Week award for Gfeller in her career, the first for a Lady Griz since the 2019-20 season.

Gfeller had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and 10 rebounds in Montana's 72-51 victory over the Fighting Hawks on Thursday in Grand Forks.

She had her second double-double of the season, the third of her career, against the Bison on Saturday in Fargo.

She totaled 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and added 10 rebounds as Montana stormed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to win 65-63.

Gfeller hit the game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds left.

Through four games, Gfeller is averaging 14.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. She ranks second in the Big Sky in both rebounding and field goal percentage (.676), and ranks 17th nationally in shooting percentage.

And yet she is third on the team in shot attempts.

"After every game, I write it in my notes. How do we get the ball to Carmen more? When you shoot that good a percentage, you have to take more shots," said Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger, who's got a good problem on his hands.

The players who have taken more shots this season than Gfeller, Sammy Fatkin and Sophia Stiles, are shooting 53.1 and 51.4 percent, respectively, high marks for guards.

Still, 67.6 percent tends to jump off the page. It's why Gfeller is more and more facing multiple defenders in her personal space when she gets the ball in her hands on the offensive end.

"Because she is such a threat, now she has to learn how to become a facilitator too. People collapse on you? Kick it out for easy shots. That just helps our team in general," said Holsinger.

"She's learning to become a complete player. I'm excited for her."

Gfeller led the Big Sky in shooting last season at 52.9 percent and Montana in scoring at 14.3 points, both the result of her sweet shooting stroke.

But she averaged just 5.4 rebounds, fewer than Stiles did at point guard, a figure lower than might be projected for a strong, physical player who stands 6-foot-1 and played nearly 30 minutes per game.

That Gfeller has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in three of four games this season is not because the ball has happened to bounce her way more often.

It's about awareness, hard work, being intentional, about priorities. Of Gfeller's 38 total rebounds this season, 33 have come on the defensive end.

"Defensive rebounding wins over the long haul, so we focus on that every day and practice it every day," said Holsinger. "It's neat to see something you practice show improvement.

"The habits she's learning is the biggest thing. She's improved dramatically in how she boxes out and how she's on balance and all the things that lead to more rebounds. It's fun to see the results."

Gfeller and the 3-1 Lady Griz will travel to Phoenix this week for the Grand Canyon Women's Basketball Classic.

Montana will face Houston Baptist (3-1) on Friday at noon, Nicholls State (2-3) on Saturday at noon.