Missoula, Mont. • North Dakota coach Brian Jones just smiled. Basking in his team’s blowout of Southern Utah, he was reminded about Friday’s opponent in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Weber State.
“The way they played tonight, they looked to be on a mission,” he said. To beat the Wildcats, “We have to play at a high level.”
Third-seeded North Dakota (16-15) must also do something it hasn’t yet been able this season: defeat No. 2 seed Weber State.
The Wildcats (25-5), who take on UND at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Dahlberg Arena, have had little trouble with one of the newest members of the Big Sky Conference.
Montana, the tournament’s top seed, takes on Northern Colorado, which defeated Montana State, at 8 p.m.
Jones has a reason to worry, as Weber State appears to be peaking at the right time.
The Wildcats have won 12 in a row, rolling past Northern Arizona in Thursday’s quarterfinal.
Weber State set the pace with its post offense. The Wildcat perimeter players, notably Davion Berry with six assists, kept feeding Kyle Tresnak and Frank Otis, who combined for 28 points.
It’s the same style of play that has fueled WSU’s offense all season.
“We want to park that ball as close to basket as you can,” WSU coach Randy Rahe said. “It’s like going to the mall. I told these guys, ‘If you go to the mall, you want to park as close as you can.’ ”
WSU freshman Joel Bolomboy also added to WSU’s inside game. He managed nine points off the bench in the Wildcats’ 84-58 victory. Otis, Tresnak and Bolomboy combined for 16 rebounds and six blocks while converting 16-of-22 shots from the field.
The effort was fueled by WSU most recent game at NAU, one that saw the Wildcats down seven points with a minute to play, only to steal one in overtime.
“We didn’t want the same thing to happen,” Otis said. “If you lose a game now, you’re done.”