OGDEN, Utah – Top-seeded Weber State used a fast start and fed off the energy of its home crowd to knock off second-seeded North Dakota 88-67 in the Big Sky Championship Game on Saturday at the Dee Events Center. The Wildcats earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.
Weber State (19-11) opened the game making 10 of its first 11 shots from the field, including five 3-pointers to jump out to a 25-14 lead and never looked back. UND (17-16) stayed within striking distance until a late run by Weber State put the game out of reach.
UND hung around because of the play of a quartet of seniors, but unfortunately that group was missing two key cogs in this one. Troy Huff led UND in scoring with 17 points and Alonzo Traylor added 15 points, but the club struggled without its floor general Jamal Webb and one of its steadiest players in Josh Schuler.
“Weber State played at a high level and came out and made a lot of shots early,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “They deserve a lot of credit, but we definitely missed Jamal and Josh tonight. They are two of our top seven guys. It’s not an excuse, but when you get to a game like this you want to be at full strength and, unfortunately, that was not the case for us.
“I’m really proud of my team though. We continued to battle and we took another step forward as a program this season. These seniors have played in three conference tournament title games over the last four years and not a lot of players in the country can claim that.”
Webb tried to give it a go on an injured knee that he hurt late in the semifinals vs. Portland State, but lasted just four minutes and Schuler missed his second straight game after being injured on the final play of the quarterfinal win over Sacramento State. Aaron Anderson, who broke the UND record for games played by appearing in the 132nd of his career tonight, finished with eight points and fellow senior Jaron Nash added 10.
Anderson joined Huff on the All-Big Sky Tournament team after the duo both averaged in double figures over the three games. The all-tournament team honor for Huff was the fourth of his career after being named the All-Great West Tournament Team as a freshman and sophomore and earning a spot on last season’s Big Sky squad.
UND fell behind by 13 at 31-18 on a layup by Joel Bolomboy, but managed to trim that deficit down to seven in the final minute after outscoring the Wildcats 11-5 over a five-minute stretch late in the half. Weber State would take the momentum back right before halftime, however, after senior Davion Berry drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Berry’s second triple of the half gave his squad a 44-34 advantage at the break as the Tournament MVP had 14 of his game-high 19 points in the opening 20 minutes.
UND had chances early to make a run at Weber State, but Wildcat senior Kyle Tresnak closed the door on any thoughts of a comeback by scoring 21 of his game-high 27 points after halftime. Weber State’s lead hovered around a dozen for the opening eight minutes of the second half, but a 10-2 spurt midway through the stanza put the game out of reach.
Weber State finished the game with a 57 percent clip from the field, while holding UND to a 39 percent shooting clip. The Wildcats also made 10-of-22 3-pointers and limited UND to just one.
Nash led the rebounding effort for UND with nine, while Huff added seven. Huff also had two steals to break UND’s single-season record with 77 in that category. Traylor finished the three games in Ogden 14-for-17 from the field after going 6-for-8 in this contest.
With a 17-16 overall record, UND is eligible for postseason play. If the team accepts a bid to play in its fourth-straight postseason, that will be likely be decided on Sunday after the NCAA Tournament field is announced.
-- UND --