The atmosphere and intensity of its nailbiter Bracketbusters win Saturday against UT Arlington had a definite postseason flavor for Weber State.
Get used to it.
With two regular-season games to go in the Wildcats' chase for all the Tostitos -- the Big Sky championship and the right to host the league tournament -- it's crunch time.
Weber State (22-4, 13-1 Big Sky) travels to Northern Colorado Thursday, but the most likely scenario points toward the Wildcats' final game, their Feb. 28 showdown against Montana (20-6, 12-1) in Missoula, being a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all battle for Big Sky supremacy and home court advantage in the tourney.
Weber State star Damian Lillard is looking forward to that.
"We like challenges. A lot of people probably don't think we'll be able to go on the road and win two, but everything depends on these last two games, especially if we're able to win at Northern Colorado," the junior point guard said. "Then everything will be on the line against Montana and I don't think anybody in our program would rather have it any other way."
Lillard felt the postseason-like intensity in Saturday's Bracketbusters game as Weber State snapped UT Arlington's 16-game winning streak with a narrow 72-70 win.
"It basically was (a playoff game)," Lillard said. "That's what Bracketbusters are for, for you to play a different team (outside of the conference). They wanted to beat us bad. They really competed and forced us to play at their level -- not that we weren't playing hard -- but the fact we were competing so hard against each other kind of raised the intensity of the game.
"Anytime you get on a winning streak like they did, you don't want to lose, so you're going to fight to the end. That's what they did and we just weathered the storm and were able to pull it out."
The experience against a tough Mavericks team will come in handy in the near future, he said.
"Playing against a team like (UTA) that's so aggressive and athletic, they really get after you defensively," he said. "Not a lot of teams in our league can do what they did to us. Their athleticism and length, how deep they were, in a way, it can help us; it might have prepared us for pressure down the road."
And there will be pressure, whether it's a three-quarter court trap defense or the pressure of having the Big Sky title on the line.
The only way the last regular-season game doesn't matter in the conference race is in the improbable event that WSU wins at UNC while Montana drops two straight games this week, at home, to two teams with a combined 21 consecutive losses. Northern Arizona (5-22, 1-13 Big Sky) has lost 14 in a row and Montana State (11-15, 6-8) has dropped seven straight.
Meanwhile, Montana has won nine straight games and Weber State's win streak reached six Saturday.
Weber State recognized seniors Kyle Bullinger and Darin Mahoney prior to Saturday's game on Senior Night.
If Lillard had not broken his foot last year and been granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, it would have been his Senior Night and final regular season game at the Dee Events Center, too.
"I thought about it. That could have been me out there," he said. "This probably could have been my last game here, but I wasn't (a senior). The only thing that ran through my mind was all the memories I had with Mo and Bull. They've been here five years, but when I first got here they were the young guys too, with me. Just to see them out there as seniors on Senior Night is sad, but you're happy for them at the same time. You don't want to see them go, but they've been here so long you don't want to hold them here any longer. They've given this program so much and there's nothing more we could ask from them."
Lillard has done all that could be asked of him this season, as well. The Wooden, Cousy and Robertson Award candidate is working on another MVP year. He's second in the country in scoring (24.5 points per game) and drawing the attention of NBA scouts while climbing to No. 2 on Weber State's career points list.
Weber State is 15-0 this season at the Dee Events Center for the first time in school history and can continue to add to its record if it hosts the Big Sky tournament. Weber State had gone 14-0 three previous times, but the most home games WSU has won in a season was in a 16-1 season in 1979-80.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter and read his WSU posts at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog.