North Dakota (16-15) vs. Weber State (25-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 15, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: North Dakota 9-5, Weber State 14-1. Away Record: North Dakota 6-10, Weber State 10-4. Neutral Record: North Dakota 1-0, Weber State 1-0. Conference Record: North Dakota 12-8, Weber State 18-2. Series Record: Weber State leads, 2-0.
GAMES NOTES: The second-seed Weber State Wildcats look to make a return trip to the Big Sky Conference Tournament finals when they square off with third- seed North Dakota in the semifinals on Friday night at Dahlberg Arena.
Just a few days from posting a win against them in the regular-season finale, North Dakota grabbed a 69-52 win over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds to advance to Friday. The win was the fourth in a row for North Dakota which is now one of just three teams in the conference with an overall record above .500 (16-15).
The Wildcats were red hot to end the regular season and have kept that going into the postseason. On Thursday they routed Northern Arizona, 84-58, for their 12th-straight victory. Weber State was one of just two teams in the conference to have a record above .500 during the regular season (24-5) as it continues to try to break a tie with regular season champion Montana for the most tournament titles.
Weber State handily won each of the two meetings with North Dakota with an average margin of victory of 23.5 points. The winner in this matchup will advance to face either regular season champ Montana or Northern Colorado in the Big Sky title game.
North Dakota clung to a 28-25 lead at halftime in the quarterfinals against Southern Utah but pulled away in the second half. During the final 20 minutes North Dakota hit 65.2 percent of its shots from the field, including a 7-of-11 showing from beyond the arc.
As a team North Dakota has fought to about even on the scoreboard this season with a razor thin scoring margin of -0.2. North Dakota scored 67.2 points per game led by Troy Huff (19.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) who had a team-high 15 points on five-of-10 shooting against Southern Utah. Aaron Anderson (13.6 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Jamal Webb (9.5 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.3 spg) can each score and distribute in the backcourt with Webb also a savvy defender as the conference leader in steals. Mitch Wilmer (5.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) had one of his better outings of the campaign against Southern Utah as he posted an 11-point, 14-rebound double- double.
There wasn't much resistance given by the sixth-seed Lumberjacks against Weber State on Thursday. Four players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, who shot 53.6 percent from the field. Meanwhile the Wildcats forced 17 turnovers and held the Lumberjacks to just 37 percent shooting.
All season long Weber State has been pouring it on offensively. The Wildcats rank at the very top of the Division I level in field-goal percentage (.508) while leading the Big Sky in points (75.8 pg) and assists (14 pg). Davion Berry (15.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 apg) is the leading scorer for the Wildcats and is coming off a 13-point performance against Northern Arizona. Scott Bamforth (13.2 ppg) and Kyle Tresnak (11.5 ppg) provide additional offensive firepower as the other double figure scorers on the roster. Frank Otis (9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is normally a complementary scorer but he had a team-high 16 points on Friday.
After dominating North Dakota in both meetings during the regular season, it's hard to imagine that Weber State will stumble this close to the title game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Weber State 76, North Dakota 60
03/15 10:34:12 ET