BOISE, Idaho — No matchup is as synonymous with Big Sky men’s basketball as Weber State versus Montana.
The Wildcats and Griz are 1-2 in most measures in Big Sky history and Friday’s semifinal matchup was the 130th meeting between the programs. WSU has faced no team more than UM — including what became seven tournament contests in the last 10 seasons on Friday.
Friday’s contest had the feel of another blockbuster matchup. Weber State entered coming off a nearly complete game in the quarterfinals and Montana came in as a senior-laden defending champion.
Most everything except the final score was indicative of the big-time feel each time WSU and UM face off. The sideline sections in the arena’s main bowl were full, mostly of Griz fans, creating a loud environment.
It highlighted what the schools and conference officials hoped for with the move from Reno to Boise — a better arena and a shorter trip for most fanbases that pushes the neutral-site tournament to the next level.
But Weber State moved to 1-6 in those seven recent matchups — the only win coming in Reno’s first year, defeating the Griz to win the title.
“It’s a really fun game to be part of … it’s tough we didn’t go out winning,” WSU senior Brekkott Chapman said.
Weber’s all-time series lead over Montana is now 70-60.
Montana head coach Travis DeCuire said the matchups from this group of players works well against Weber’s scheme and that it helps to have so many seniors to carry out the intensity he tries to convey.
“Recently, there’s a lot history between Montana and Weber. Between us two, we’ve won the league a lot. So I think that plays a little bit into it,” Montana senior Bobby Moorehead said. “But us older guys have tried to really harp on the guys that every game is just as important as another. We know that when we’re not playing our best this year, any team in our league can beat us.”
Still, Moorehead admitted there was something to this matchup that was different than other games for the Griz, which showed when they struggled to put away Sacramento State in the quarterfinals but played Weber like it was the title game.
“Knowing Weber’s been at the top every year, we knew we had to have our best game no matter what,” he said. “So I think our guys were more mentally ready for those games coming into them this year. I think that was the difference.”