WEBER STATE VS. MONTANA: An inside look at the fierce rivalry

Jan 24 2014 - 8:48pm

Here's a retrospective of some of Weber State and Montana's fiercest battles in recent years.

* March 16, 2013: Montana 67, Weber State 64 --- In the Big Sky tourney final in Missoula, the Griz wrecked Weber State's 13-game winning streak. Weber State wound up in the finals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and won 30 games, but the Wildcats would have gladly traded places with the Griz, who were destroyed by Syracuse, 81-34, in their NCAA Tournament appearance.

* Feb. 14, 2013: Weber State 87, Montana 63 -- In Ogden, the Wildcats obliterated the Griz's 25-game conference winning streak, handing Montana its first conference loss in 13 months, dating back to UM's last visit to the Dee Events Center.

* Jan. 26, 2013: Montana 76, Weber State 74 -- In Missoula, Davion Berry tried a desperation 3 from midcourt at the buzzer, but the Wildcats lost to the Grizzlies and were swept on their road trip to the two Montana schools. Those turned out to be their only regular season losses as they went 18-2 in an expanded 20-game Big Sky schedule in 2012-13; the Griz did them one better and earned the right to host the league tournament.

The tensions of the rivalry threatened to boil over during the postgame handshakes, when some yapping between players had to be broken up before a brawl could begin.

* March 7, 2012: Montana 85, Weber State 66 -- In Missoula, Damian Lillard had 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but it wasn't enough. The Wildcats led 36-31 at halftime, but the Griz caught fire and hit 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the second half while cruising to a big win on their home court.

* Feb. 28, 2012: Montana 66, Weber State 51 -- In Missoula, the Big Sky Conference race had never before come down to two one-loss teams facing off on the final day of the regular season. Will Cherry had 23 points and the Griz won their 12th straight game.

A week later, the Wildcats would have reason to regret letting home court advantage slip away; the Grizzlies fed off the crowd in the tourney final, gained momentum and launched long 3s with confidence to overcome a first-half deficit.

* Jan. 14, 2012: Weber State 80, Montana 64: In Ogden, the Wildcats took control of the Big Sky race behind 21 points from Damian Lillard. Weber State's true miscue this season was a last-second loss to a mediocre Idaho State team two weeks later that allowed Montana to stay even the rest of the way and set up a showdown that happened to be played in Missoula.

To sum up, Weber State lost only two Big Sky regular seasons for consecutive seasons, but the Grizzlies stayed one step ahead.

A couple of notable WSU vs. UM battles in previous conference tournaments ratcheted up the intensity of the rivalry prior to the past two seasons:

* March 8, 2011: Montana 57, Weber State 40 -- In Greeley, Colo., the Wildcats weren't expected to compete for the league title after star Damian Lillard broke his foot and missed most of the season, but they managed to claw their way to third place.

Weber State held Montana to just 11 points in the first half, but the Griz scored the final 18 points of the game to keep WSU from reaching the championship game.

* March 11, 2010: Montana 66, Weber State 65 -- The last time Weber State hosted the Big Sky Conference tournament resulted in possibly its most painful loss of the decade.

Anthony Johnson was unstoppable, scoring a tourney-record 42 points and the last 21 of the game for the Grizzlies as they overcame a 40-20 halftime deficit.

Damian Lillard was the Big Sky MVP and had a chance for the last shot, but Will Cherry tied him up and got a jump ball called with 2.6 seconds to go. The possession arrow gave the Grizzlies the ball and the win; the Wildcats got heartbreak.

Contact reporter Roy Burton at rburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.

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