MISSOULA, Mont. — On the first day of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Weber State senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth’s 1-year-old son was chosen from the crowd to play a halftime contest involving giant inflatable dice.
Little Kingzton rolled a one on his second try when he needed at least a two to win.
It was the only unlucky break for the Wildcats on Thursday.
Facing a team that played them tough in two earlier meetings, Weber State didn’t leave anything to chance in its Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game against Northern Arizona.
Senior forward Frank Otis scored a team-high 16 points as the ’Cats jumped on the ’Jacks early and cruised to an 84-58 win to advance in the tourney. Junior forward Davion Berry contributed 13 points, six rebounds and six assists while Bamforth and junior center Kyle Tresnak each added 12 points.
Berry, Weber State’s leading scorer for the season, takes just as much pride in the assists as the points.
“Like all year long, I’ve said me passing to my teammate and him scoring, I love that just like I’m scoring,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me who scores the ball as long as it goes in.”
With their 12th straight win, the No. 2 seed Wildcats (25-8) move on to today’s semifinal at 5:30 p.m. against third-seeded North Dakota at Dahlberg Arena.
“I thought our team was really focused,” Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. “I (took) a lot of questions along the way (about) if our team was going to overlook something or worry about the next (game). I really didn’t worry about that, to be honest with you; if you’d seen them practicing the last couple days, that wasn’t happening.”
The Wildcats improved to 24-0 this year when outrebounding an opponent by beating the Lumberjacks 36-27 on the boards and holding them to 37.0 percent shooting.
“Weber State came out and they obviously had a great game plan,” said Northern Arizona first-year coach Jack Murphy, who led a Lumberjacks turnaround after they won just one league game a year ago. “We played them close less than two weeks ago; they started off with a defensive intensity they hadn’t shown really in two games against us throughout the season. You can’t go five minutes without scoring to start the game, especially against a team like Weber.
“We ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw.”
Weber State won both regular season meetings with NAU this year and the third time was just as charming. The Wildcats have won 11 in a row against the Lumberjacks.
Freshman guard DeWayne Russell scored a game-high 21 points for Northern Arizona (11-21), while senior guard Gabe Rogers, who won the Big Sky scoring title at 18.1 points per game, finished with 12.
WSU and NAU were evenly matched at 12-12 in points in the paint in the first half, but the ’Cats took control by the end with 38 post points to 18.
Against a team that forced them to overtime on March 2 in Flagstaff, Ariz., and by all rights should have beaten them after leading by seven points with just over a minute to go, Weber State started the game on a 9-0 run and led wire-to-wire.
“We didn’t want the same thing to happen like what happened at Northern Arizona, where we were up and gave them a chance to come back to and (we could) possibly lose a game,” Otis said. “If you lose a game now, you’re done so you can’t let that happen.”
Weber State led by 15 points at halftime, 36-21, and kept up the pressure, building as much as a 26-point advantage in the second half.
It was a slightly-above-average shooting night for the top shooting team in the country: Weber State hit 53.6 percent from the field, just up from its season average of 50.8 percent.
Weber State reached 25 wins for the seventh time in school’s 50-year history.
North Dakota broke open a close game at halftime to post a 69-52 victory over cold-shooting Southern Utah in the second quarterfinal game.