Based on their records, it’s no surprise to see Weber State and Montana in the Big Sky tournament title game, but neither team was able to coast in the semifinals.
Weber State edged Portland State 69-63 in the early game and Montana held off Eastern Washington later at Dahlberg Arena for a 74-66 win.
Tonight’s 7 p.m. contest will be a rematch of last week’s showdown for the Big Sky regular season championship. Montana won that game, earning home court advantage for the tournament and disappointing a Weber State team that finished with only two league losses. That’s usually enough to win the Big Sky, but not this year, and the Wildcats will have to beat the Griz on their home turf to have a chance to dance in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re happy to pull it out,” Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said after winning Tuesday. “We’re happy to advance. Our only motivation heading into this thing wasn’t about what happened in the first couple of games, or what’s been said, it was get to Wednesday night. We accomplished that and I’m super proud of our kids for getting that done for us.”
Each team won handily at home during the regular season, but Tinkle doesn’t think it will be that easy tonight.
“It’s going to be a battle,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle royale. They’re a great team. We’ve got to put together a plan here. We know it’s going to be a challenge, they’re a very good team. We’ll see. I don’t know how much we’ll do different because we don’t have much time.”
The Griz have no reason to try anything different than the zone defense that was so effective last week against the Wildcats until Weber State proves it can beat it. WSU has to believe it can do better than 3-for-26 again from the 3-point line this time, however, and the matchup between elite Big Sky point guards and fellow Oakland natives Damian Lillard and Will Cherry should be intense.
Cherry, the Big Sky defensive player of the year, got the best of Lillard, the league MVP, last week, and it will be fun to watch how Lillard responds.
The real burning question for tonight’s contest, however: Will the Weber State-Montana title bout outdraw Tim Tebow at the Adams Center/Dahlberg Arena?