FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- It's the end of the road for the Wildcats.
At least in the Big Sky Conference regular season.
As for the league tournament, second-place Weber State is still chasing Montana for the right to earn the No. 1 seed and host the tourney, so whether or not this is actually the 'Cats' final Big Sky game away from home rides on their ability to finish strong in their final three games. Then they need someone to knock off the Grizzlies, who are limping down the stretch with injuries to stars Mathias Ward and Will Cherry.
WSU gets an early start on the chase with a 2 p.m. tipoff against Northern Arizona at the Walkup Skydome.
The Wildcats (21-5, 15-2 Big Sky) have won eight straight and can match their longest streak of the season with a victory this afternoon.
Northern Arizona, which lost to Weber State by a score of 83-70 in Ogden on Jan. 17, is the only Big Sky team to shoot 50 percent from the field against the Wildcats this season; BYU and Oral Roberts are the only non-conference foes to do so.
'Cats coach Randy Rahe said the Wildcats won't change the approach that has them ranked first in the Big Sky in scoring defense.
"We do what we do; we've just got to do it really well," he said.
"Last time we played Northern Arizona, watching the tape, on defense we were very loose. We weren't locked in like we need to be and our position was not very good. We've got to just tighten up in those areas."
After winning only one league game last year, NAU has bounced back under first-year coach Jack Murphy. The Lumberjacks (11-17, 8-9) are one of three teams tied for fourth place in the Big Sky and jockeying for position in the upcoming conference tourney.
Weber State junior Kyle Tresnak and Northern Arizona junior Max Jacobsen will be the centers of attention today.
Tresnak, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native, scored a career-high 23 points in the Wildcats' first meeting with NAU, while Jacobsen, his opposite at center, was deadly efficient from the floor, making 9 of 11 shots to lead the Lumberjacks with 18 points.
"Jacobsen kicked our (butts)," Rahe said. "He's shooting at a high percentage, he's tough to handle down there. We've got to do a better job on him."
Tresnak, who has twice scored career highs against Northern Arizona, will be playing in front of a supportive group of friends and relatives, a situation that paid off big for junior forward Davion Berry on Thursday.
Berry led the Wildcats with 22 points against Sac State in front of family and friends who made their way over from the Oakland area.
"The guys, whenever they've got family in the crowd, they get a little juiced up, a little more on edge," Rahe said. "It's important for them to want to play well in front of their friends and family. It's human nature, I think it helps those kids when their family is in the crowd."
Sacramento State brought its biggest crowd in a decade to Thursday's game with a whiteout game; NAU hopes to do the same with its own whiteout promotion. It's also senior night for five Lumberjacks players, including Gabe Rogers, who scored 24 in a win over Idaho State on Thursday, and point guard Stallon Saldivar, Salt Lake City native.
"People are getting excited to play us," Rahe said. "Northern Arizona is blowing this up too -- this is a whiteout game, biggest game on the schedule -- and that's good. I tell our kids, let's embrace it. We want it. We want everyone's best shot and to prove what kind of team we are. That's the kind of environment we're going to be in (today). We're going to see a juiced up team, they're going to give us their best shot and we've got to be ready to embrace it."
The Lumberjacks are back in the Skydome after a couple of seasons of playing home games at the Rolle Activity Center.
"Knock on wood, we've usually played pretty well down there," Rahe said. "It's very similar to Idaho State's (Holt Arena) ... but it's a lot better than playing in that other gym, I know that much. That other little rec center was the worst floor we've ever been on, so I'm sure it's an upgrade from where they played last year."