After the Wildcats got what they needed Saturday night, escaping the Dee Events Center with their ninth-straight win by fending off Sacramento State, senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth had one more wish.
Told that Montana and Montana State were heading to overtime in the ’Cat-Griz game in Missoula, Mont., Bamforth replied, “I hope they go to like five overtimes so they get a little bit tired.”
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, who will face both Montana schools this week, that didn’t happen. Neither did a Montana loss, which would have given Weber State some breathing room in a Big Sky Conference race that has them both sitting at 8-0, the only two schools above .500 in league play.
Montana State’s Bobcats did their best to help the Wildcats out, taking the Grizzlies to the wire before 6-foot-7 junior forward Michael Weisner drained a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to send it to OT at the Dahlberg Arena. Montana (12-4, 8-0 Big Sky) closed it out from there with a 76-71 win over its in-state rivals at home — in just a single overtime period — for the Grizzlies’ 21st consecutive Big Sky victory.
Montana State (6-9, 3-4), if not playing five overtime on Saturday, will have to at least play another full game before it faces Weber State (13-3, 8-0) in Bozeman, Mont., on Thursday; the Bobcats take on Southern Utah tonight.
If Weber State gets past MSU on Thursday and Montana handles Idaho State the same night, the Wildcats and Griz will meet in a battle of Big Sky unbeatens on Saturday night in Missoula to close out the first half of the conference schedule.
With that potential showdown on the horizon, Weber State is facing its toughest travel stretch of the season, with four consecutive road games that will take the Wildcats from Bozeman to Missoula to Grand Forks, N.D., to Greeley, Colo. — this coming on the heels of playing three games in six days last week.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe offered his usual response when asked about the upcoming schedule.
“They’re all big (games) and the Montanas, it’s the toughest trip of the year,” he said. “They’re all tough; Big Sky travel, trying to get to places is tough, but (the Montana State-Montana trip) is always really difficult, primarily because they’re really good, both teams.
“We’re going to get ready to go. We’re going to go up there and fight and compete. The whole thing in conference play is you try to hold down your home court and go try to steal as many as you can on the road.”
Freshman forward Joel Bolomboy continues to provide a lift for Weber State off the bench despite averaging 22.4 minutes per game, tied with starting center Kyle Tresnak for the most minutes among Wildcats’ post players.
Bolomboy is averaging 7.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and has a team-high 27 blocks on the year.
He scored eight points and had an uncharacteristic three rebounds Saturday against Sac State, but on Thursday against Northern Arizona, he had 13 points in his third double-double of the season. After struggling at the line early this year, he was more proud of going 9 for 9 at the free throw line than he was of his 13 rebounds.
“I got all my nerves out,” he said.
He also blocked five shots Thursday, the most by a WSU player in a game since 2010.
Despite the freshman playing starters’ minutes, Rahe said he doesn’t expect to make any changes in the lineup soon.
“I’m a creature of habit,” Rahe said. “I like to start the guys who have been starting. I’ve always felt like when guys know their roles going into a game, they get comfortable and they play better. The guys off the bench kind of know, this is usually when I’m coming in and this is what my role is. I’ve never in a believer in switching up roles unless you have to because then everybody starts looking around and wondering, ‘what’s going on?’”
Plus, he likes the spark Bolomboy provides off the bench.
“He’s playing with more confidence and more aggressiveness. It goes hand in hand,” Rahe said.
“He’s starting to feel it. He was obviously huge (Thursday) the way he rebounded the ball. He was able to score some points, he’s shooting the ball well from the free throw line, blocked us some shots. He’s a great rim protector. You can see the confidence growing on him and it should just continue to grow. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop, not only throughout this year but the next year and see what he can become, because it could be pretty good.”
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter, read more about the Wildcats at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog or reach him at email@example.com.