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Saturday, March 16, 9 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Weber State 14-1, Montana 14-1. Away Record: Weber State 10-4, Montana 10-5. Neutral Record: Weber State 2-0, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: Weber State 18-2, Montana 19-1. Series Record: Weber State leads, 65-50.
GAME NOTES: For the third time in the last four seasons the Montana Grizzlies will clash with the Weber State Wildcats in the Big Sky Tournament championship game when they meet up at Dahlberg Arena on Saturday.
These two teams were far and away the best in the Big Sky this season with the two combining for just three losses in league action. They split the season series with the home team coming out in each instance. Weber State leads the all-time series by a 65-50 margin.
After crushing Northern Arizona, 84-58, in the first round of the tourney, Weber State had a bit of trouble against third-seed North Dakota on Friday. The second-seed Wildcats still managed to collect the 76-74 win though for their 13th straight victory overall. The Wildcats were unceremoniously dumped, 85-66, in last season's title game and are looking to avenge setbacks in each of the last three meetings in the title game between these teams.
The Grizzlies had just a single loss in 20 tries against league foes this season and continued that type of dominance in the semifinal matchup with Northern Colorado on Friday. Montana coasted to a 70-56 victory in the contest, which was its fifth straight victory. Montana has won the tournament title in two of the last three seasons and is tied with the Wildcats with eight all-time crowns. Montana has now made it to the tournament title game in each of the last four seasons.
Kyle Tresnak's layup with 19 seconds to go was the difference in Weber State's thrilling win over North Dakota. Though Tresnak scored the critical blow it was Davion Berry that yet again carried the Wildcats as he poured in a game- high 25 points.
Lighting up the scoreboard has proved to be no challenge for Weber State this season. The Wildcats are the second best shooting team in the country (.507) and also top the Big Sky in points per game (76) and assists (13.8 apg). Weber State isn't just an offensive team though, with the Wildcats holding opponents to just 61.3 points per game on less than 40 percent shooting. Berry (15.3 ppg) has been no stranger to pouring in big point totals this season. The 6- foot-4 swingman has topped the 20-point plateau 10 times after Friday's performance. Scott Bamforth (13.2 ppg) is a solid scorer in his own right as is Tresnak (11.4 , 5.6 rpg), who finishes on 55 percent from the floor.
Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar were yet again at the forefront for Montana on Friday. Cherry netted a game-high 21 points and Jamar hung up a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who shot at a 46.6 percent clip in the contest.
Cherry (13.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) struggled with an injury issue late in the season but has scored in double figures in each of the two bouts since his return. That injury was bad enough, but the Grizzlies already lost Mathias Ward (14.8 ppg) in mid-February with a foot injury. Jamar (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.1 apg) has had to carry the team by himself at times this season and was named Big Sky MVP for his efforts. The versatile swingman has been in double figures in seven straight games and has had at least four rebounds and four assists in three of the last four. As a team, the Grizzlies are second in the league in points scored (71.3 pg) and field-goal percentage (.474).
Since it won the regular season crown Montana was lucky enough to earn hosting duties for this contest. That could prove crucial for the Grizzlies who were 14-1 at Dahlberg Arena this year. The Grizzlies may have some trouble keeping up with the high-octane Wildcats though without Ward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 80, Weber State 78
03/16 10:33:50 ET
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