MISSOULA, Mont. - Kyle Tresnak's jumper in the lane with just over 20 seconds to play dashed the upset hopes of the North Dakota men's basketball team as Weber State prevailed with a 76-74 victory on Friday in the semifinals of the Big Sky Championship.
Tresnak's jumper gave the Wildcats a two-point advantage for the first time in the second half and UND junior Aaron Anderson saw his 3-point attempt at the buzzer rattle off the rim, securing the Weber State (26-5) comeback victory at Dahlberg Arena.
"That was a great college basketball game," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "Those are the types of games that March is made for. Obviously, we are disappointed because we were in position to win, but I could not be more proud of the way our guys played tonight."
Junior Troy Huff led UND (16-16) with 22 points and Jamal Webb added 13 for third-seeded UND, who got out of the gates quick and went toe-to-toe with the Wildcats, who extended their winning streak to 13 games.
Big men Mitch Wilmer and Brandon Brekke each added 11 to give the Green and White four double-digit scorers.
Huff and fellow Big Sky first team Davion Berry were electric for their respective teams in the first half that saw the lead change sides 13 times. Both players finished the opening stanza with 16 points, but it was the underdogs who built a 43-40 lead at the break.
UND did that mostly by shooting 18-for-31 from the field, while holding the NCAA's top shooting team to a 41.7 percent clip.
The Green and White started the second half in similar fashion by making five of its first six attempts from floor and pushed the lead out to 12 thanks to a quick 9-0 run.
Freshman Joel Bolomboy finally got Weber on the board with a layup just over three minutes into the stanza, then had three consecutive dunks just moments later to cut the Wildcats' deficit in half.
Webb snapped an 11-0 run by Weber State with a driving layup that put UND back up by three at 58-55 at the midway point of the half.
Huff would build UND's lead back to five with a layup with just under eight minutes to play, but the final stretch would be much like the back-and-forth first half.
Gelaun Wheelright capped a 6-0 run for Weber State and gave the Wildcats their first lead of the second half with a baseline floater, but back-to-back baskets by Brekke would put UND right back up by three with four minutes to go.
After Berry, who finished with a game-high 25 points, made a layup to pull his team within a point, Wilmer tipped in a Huff miss in the paint to make it a 74-71 contest with 90 seconds to play. Weber State's other All-Big Sky first teamer then came up with the shot of the night for the Wildcats, drilling a corner 3-pointer to tie the score at 74-74.
On UND's ensuing possession with under a minute to play, Webb would drive to the baseline and try to find Huff for a shot from the corner, but Weber State stripped him of the ball and UND turned it over for just the fifth time in the contest.
Weber State would work the clock down and Tresnak, who had just eight points in the game and was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game, hit what would prove to the game-winner with 19 seconds remaining.
UND passed up a couple of open looks before Anderson's shot from just in front of his bench was off the mark, giving the Wildcats a spot in Saturday's title game.
Huff and Brekke each shared game-high rebounding honors with Bolomboy as the statistics were more or less even across the board in this clash.
Both teams had 15 second-chance points and 19 bench points. UND would end up with a 48 percent clip from the floor, while Weber State improved to 46 percent after going 15-for-29 in the second half.
Weber State, who came in as the top 3-point shooting team in the country as well, was limited to just a 4-for-18 clip.
With its 16-16 finish, UND will now wait to see if it earns a third-straight postseason berth with a CIT bid being the most likely of the possibilities.
-- UND --