Weber State men’s basketball matched the weather outside, offensively, in Thursday’s matchup against Montana.
The Missoula weather hovered around zero degrees, and the Wildcats turned in their worst shooting night of the season — entering second-best in the nation at 41% from deep as a team, ending the game just 3 of 14 from behind the arc.
But it was the other end of the floor that perhaps hurt Weber State the most, and Montana ended WSU’s four-game winning streak with an 80-67 decision at Dahlberg Arena.
“Once we we got used to the rhythm in the second half, I think our defense just didn’t play very well,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “We’ve got to put two halves together, obviously.”
Montana hit 80 points in regulation for the first time against a Division I opponent and shot a season-best 9 of 18 from 3. The Griz entered the game close to fewest in the country in 3-point attempts and averaging 4.7 makes per contest.
Kyle Owens personified the offensive night for Montana (9-9, 5-6 Big Sky). The lefty forward sank several midrange jumpers in the first half, hit three corner 3-pointers in the second half and scored 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting (including 4 of 5 from deep).
“They were very on edge, very urgent; I think our guys played hard, but we were missing that edge you’ve got to have, especially up here,” Rahe said. “Montana played very well and that wasn’t our normal. We’ll have to get it fixed here real quick.”
Each of his second-half 3s were key. His first capped an 11-4 run to start the half for a 45-33 lead.
Seikou Sisoho Jawara kept up his hot play for Weber State (11-5, 6-3). The lefty guard piggy-backed on a pair of Dillon Jones buckets with a scoring drive, then hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 47-42 with 12:31 left.
Sisoho Jawara finished with 19 points to lead WSU on 8-of-13 shooting. Jones had 11 points on a 4-of-5 night. Everyone else shot 10 of 38.
Owens knocked down a 3 to cap a 9-1 run to answer, making it 56-43.
WSU cut it to 60-51 with 6:52 left on paint scores from Jones, Dontay Bassett, and Isiah Brown, but Owens effectively ended the game with another corner 3 to make it 63-51 with 6 minutes to go.
The Griz shot 16 of 25 overall and 6 of 8 from deep in the second half.
Bassett totaled 13 points and six rebounds for WSU. Brown added 12 points and five assists, and Zahir Porter scored 10 points.
Cam Parker added 15 points and six assists to Owens’ big night and Josh Bannan put in 13 points; those two shot 12 of 13 from the field off the bench.
Montana coach Travis DeCuire said he put his team through three intense practices leading up to Thursday, instead of a throttled approach intended to keep players fresh, that helped the Griz play well defensively.
“We were in grind mode for three consecutive days. A lot of drills you typically don’t do two days before a game, we did, and I thought it carried over,” DeCuire said.
After going 4-0 in series openers before the loss, Weber State gets its turn to counter in the second game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Eastern Washington defeated Montana State on Thursday to improve to 8-2 at the top of the conference. Southern Utah remains inactive in second at 6-2, and Weber State, Montana State and Idaho State are all tied for third at 6-3.