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Weber State hoops: Wildcats relish underdog role

Published March 7, 2011 5:56 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • In the winding journey that is the college basketball season, Weber State has had its fair share of mishaps. Yet, the team that was picked way back in October to win a third straight Big Sky Conference regular-season championship is more than happy with its No. 3 seed and visitor's status in Tuesday's semifinal league tournament game against second-seeded Montana.

Tipoff is 5:30 p.m. as both teams try to advance to Wednesday's championship game against either host Northern Colorado or Northern Arizona. Montana (20-9) and Weber State (18-11) split the season series, each winning comfortably at home.

"Two months ago, if you told me [WSU would be in the league semifinals] I would have said you were nuts," Wildcats coach Randy Rahe said. "We're going to take a swing and see what happens."

Weber State's season took a couple of big hits two months ago with the loss of a key player for the season and injuries to several others. Scott Bamforth, the nation's No. 1 3-point shooter by percentage, was one of those hurt. He dislocated a shoulder, an injury that has never healed, despite a brace.

The team, however, regrouped behind its veterans to reel off eight consecutive BSC victories. Although Bamforth tweaked his shoulder again during Saturday's 79-70 quarterfinal win against Eastern Washington, his two 3-pointers late in the game, along with Kyle Bullinger's career-high 26 points, helped WSU overcame a 15-point deficit.

"Obviously, Montana is really good," Bamforth said. "We can't get down like that again against them."

Tuesday's game is all about matchups. Can Weber State contend with Montana's twin towers, 7-footers Brian Qvale and Derek Selvig? The Grizzlies also have one of the league's best point guards in Will Cherry.

"This is what we play and practice for, so there shouldn't be any doubt about what our focus is all about, and right now it is Montana on Tuesday," Rahe said.

martyr@sltrib.com

Weber State vs. Montana

P At Butler-Hancock Sports Arena, Greeley, Colo.

Tipoff • 5:30 p.m.

TV • Altitude

Radio • 1430 AM

Records • WSU 18-11, 11-5, UM 20-9, 12-4

All-time series • WSU, 63-47

Last meeting • WSU, 71-67 (Jan. 15)

About the Wildcats • Scott Bamforth leads all D-I 3-point shooters at 53 percent (68-128). … Weber State won at least 10 conference games for the fifth consecutive season.

About the Grizzlies • Brian Qvale is the all-time shot blocker in Big Sky history (239). … Will Cherry averages 4.4 assists and 2.7 steals a game.