OGDEN — It’s not the final homestand for Weber State men’s basketball this weekend, but it is the final set of games in the Dee Events Center until March 7 as the Wildcats welcome Montana and Montana State to Ogden.
UM-WSU has been one of the most consistently competitive rivalries in the Big Sky and Weber State looks to answer its road setback to the Griz from Jan. 26.
It was a game in which the Wildcats trailed by as much as 23 points, cut it to as close as four, and lost 75-68.
Junior guard Cody John said the first half of that loss taught the Wildcats (15-9, 9-4 Big Sky) a lot when it comes to playing Montana.
“In the second half we adjusted. As they were aggressive with us, we were aggressive with them. We just have to do that for 40 minutes,” John said.
WSU head coach Randy Rahe added: “We know what to expect, the pressure we’re going to see, so we’re going to have a good feel for what they’ll throw at us ... we hung in there against a really good, old, basketball team.”
Both games tip off at 7 p.m.
First-place Montana (17-6, 10-2) is in the driver’s seat on a quest to claim repeat NCAA Tournament bids — something current Utah coach Larry Krysktowiak did as coach at Montana. How hard is that to do?
“It’s a really hard thing to do once,” Krystkowiak told 406mtsports.com. “If you’re doing it once, there’s a decent chance that you lost some guys and you have to try and rebuild it for the following year so it takes a little bit of luck.”
Yes, luck. Sometimes that means less roster turnover, sometimes it means avoiding injuries. The latter seems likely to play a role in Thursday’s matchup between the rivals.
In the terms of an NBA injury report, senior centers Jamar Akoh and Zach Braxton would probably be listed as questionable.
Montana head coach Travis DeCuire said Akoh “could play Thursday or he could be out for awhile,” according to Skyline Sports. Akoh has an arm injury suffered during a hard fall to the court and did not play in a one-point win Feb. 9 against Eastern Washington.
Rahe said Braxton, who is nursing a sprained ankle that held him out of a 15-point win Feb. 9 at Northern Arizona, is receiving treatment and is day to day.
The game is Montana’s first trip to Ogden since March 2, 2017, thanks to formerly imbalanced conference schedules. Montana won that game 78-74 with much of the same cast: Ahmaad Rorie scored 23 points, Michael Oguine had eight rebounds, Sayeed Pridgett dished three assists.
As competitive as the teams are against each other, that result was somewhat rare in the series: the only Griz win in the last seven games at The Dee. Even in two recent seasons when Montana won the conference with only one loss, that one loss came in Ogden where the Griz are 16-45 all-time. (Montana holds a 38-23 advantage in Missoula.)
Fans can get two-for-one tickets to Thursday’s game against Montana simply by wearing purple or pink. K9s In Flight is halftime entertainment.
Montana State (11-12, 8-5) is hot on Weber State’s heels for third place after separating itself from the bottom tier of the conference, winning four of its last five. The lone loss was a five-point defeat to Montana.
On Jan. 24, Weber State committed 19 turnovers and still scored 93 points in a win against a defensively struggling Bobcats team. But MSU senior Tyler Hall adds to his all-time Big Sky record points total with every bucket he scores.
More importantly, though: MSU head coach Brian Fish is coaching with a heavy heart. His 29-year-old daughter, Caryssa, died unexpectedly last week. Fish will coach his team Saturday before flying to Nebraska to be with family for her funeral Sunday.
The Bobcats defeated Idaho by 14 the day after the awful news, a game Fish also coached.
“Today, those guys lifted me up and I don’t have words for it,” Fish said after that game.
Saturday’s game brings two-for-one tickets for area educators with a school ID. The 2019 WSU Hall of Fame Class will be recognized at halftime.