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[media-credit id=13 align="aligncenter" width="600"][/media-credit]For the second time in a week, the Weber State University men’s basketball team lost to the University of Montana, this time in the Big Sky Conference title game.
WSU fell to the Grizzlies 85-66.
Damian Lillard said he was disappointed with the loss and was hoping to get revenge against UM.
“It’s unfortunate,” Lillard said. “I really had this game marked on my calendar. I wanted to get them back. I felt I owed it to the team.”
Head Coach Randy Rahe said he loved his team more than any other that he’s coached and said the Grizzlies just played better down the stretch.
“We came up short,” Rahe said. “I thought Montana played an unbelievable second half. I haven’t seen a team shoot like that in a long time. Our hat has to go off to them . . . There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We fought hard, but came up short.”
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks to Damian Lillard and Kyle Tresnak. WSU built a 7-2 lead three minutes into the game, but Will Cherry pulled UM within two with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Byron Fulton buried his first 3-pointer of the game a minute later to push WSU’s lead back to six.
After Lillard hit his second 3-pointer of the game, WSU held a 10-point lead with 13 minutes remaining in the half.
After UM got two points back, Fulton pushed the Wildcat lead back to 10 after Lillard cut through the Grizzly defense and fed him the ball inside.
Derek Selvig hit a 3-pointer for UM, cutting the lead to seven and getting the UM crowd back into the game with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Kareem Jamar hit another 3-pointer four minutes later for UM pulling them within five points. Then Mathias Ward hit a 12-foot jumper for UM to cut the Wildcat lead to three.
Throughout the game, there were many contested fouls, but Rahe said that wasn’t the reason for WSU’s loss.
“They have nothing to do with the game,” Rahe said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
While WSU controlled the opening stages of the first half, the latter stages were tightly contested with the two teams going back and forth.
The UM fans were a strong voice throughout the game. At one point, they chanted “overrated” at Lillard, who racked up 13 first half points and four assists.
The Grizzlies came out strong in the second half and quickly tied the game at 36. On UM’s next possession, it took the lead.
WSU answered back and with 15:35 left to play, had a 43-42 lead.
Four minutes later, the Grizzlies had retaken the lead and were up 50-43.
As UM built its lead, WSU continually chose to shoot from deep instead of attempting to drive inside.
The Wildcats were able to cut the Grizzly lead to six with 6:23 left in the game. Despite the comeback, UM still held an eight-point lead with under five minutes to go. A minute later, it was 72-56.
UM overwhelmed WSU in the second half, outscoring the ‘Cats 54-30 on its way to an 85-66 win.
Lillard, who was named to the all-tournament team, turned in the strongest performance for WSU, flirting with a triple-double. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
For the Grizzlies, Ward and Cherry led the way with 23 points.
UM’s Head Coach Wayne Tinkle said one of the big factors in the game was how the Grizzlies played as a team.
“The reason we’re in this position,” Tinkle said, “is because we’re a team.”
UM will now head to the NCAA tournament, while the Wildcats will likely end up in the NIT tournament.