MISSOULA, Mont. (ABC 4 Sports) - Weber State saw its NCAA Tournament hopes slip away with a 67-64 heartbreaking loss to top seeded Montana Saturday night in the championship game of the Big Sky Tournament. The loss also snapped WSU’s 13-game winning streak.
For the first time since 1994, no team from the state of Utah will be invited to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats now sit at 26-6 overall and will wait to see their postseason future. The NIT field will be announced Sunday at 7:00 p.m. with the CIT and CBI fields announced later Sunday.
Weber State held a 50-48 lead with 8:52 to play but the Wildcats failed to make a field goal in the next six minutes and Montana took a 59-54 lead with 3:10 to play. Davion Berry ended that drought with a three-pointer with 2:37 to play to cut the lead to two. Berry was fouled on WSU’s next possession but missed two free throws and Montana’s Will Cherry knocked down a three-pointer that gave the Grizzlies a 62-57 lead with 43 seconds left. The ‘Cats made two more field goals down the stretch but Montana made five out of six free throws to seal the victory.
For the first time this season Weber State outrebounded an opponent but lost the game. The ‘Cats pulled down 33 rebounds compared to 25 for Montana but Weber State shot just 42 percent from the field and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 49 percent. WSU also had 13 turnovers and finished the game 18-27 from the free throw line.
The game was another back-and-forth thriller with six ties and seven lead changes. Montana held a 14-16 lead early on when the Grizzlies went on a 10-3 run and took a nine point at 26-17 with 7:54 to play. The Grizzlies led 29-20 with 5:55 to play when the ‘Cats went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to two points with 4:44 to play. Scott Bamforth had a key four-point play during that stretch. WSU closed the half on a 14-5 run to tie the game at 34-34 at the break. Montana shot 52 percent from the field, compared to 41 percent for the Wildcats.
After Montana knocked down a three-pointer to start the half the Wildcats responded with a 10-2 run to take a five-point lead at 44-39 with 15:25 to play.
“I have to give Montana credit because they earned it,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team. This one is hard and it hurts. Our kids have invested into our program and it’s painful. I thought we competed hard, we just came up a couple of plays short.”
Four Wildcats scored in double figures and Berry, Scott Bamforth and freshman Joel Bolomboy each had 12 points. Bolomboy came off the bench for 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Bolomboy and Berry were named to the All-Tournament field. Gelaun Wheelwright added 11 for the Wildcats.
Montana is now 25-6 and won its third Big Sky title in the last four years. The Grizzlies have knocked Weber State out of the conference tournament in each of the past four seasons.