BOISE, Idaho — Weber State and Portland State were deadlocked in a physical battle Thursday afternoon in the Big Sky tournament quarterfinals.

The game was tied 34-34 at halftime and finished with a whopping 51 fouls and 57 free-throw attempts. But in the end, WSU successfully answered PSU's aggressiveness with its own, taking down the Big Sky's hottest team 81-71 at CenturyLink Arena.

"They play such a different style ... they basically make you abandon your system and you've got to go make plays and be strong with the ball," WSU coach Randy Rahe said. "I thought our guys did that ... sometimes you can come a little bit unraveled but these guys didn't flinch."

The game turned as Weber State (18-14) got rolling to open the second half, coming to a head when Portland State's Sal Nuhu took a pass while rolling down the lane.

Brekkott Chapman met Nuhu at the rim and obliterated his dunk attempt, sending Weber the other way where Cody John hit a 3-pointer and put WSU up 44-36.

It didn't end there. After a pair of Jerrick Harding floaters, Chapman drove the lane and scooped a two-handed dish inside to Zach Braxton who rose, dunked with authority through a foul and made his free throw.

All told, Weber opened the second half on a 22-4 run to go up 56-38, its largest lead of the game.

"I'm proud of our guys," Rahe said. "In the second half, I thought our defense in the first 10 minutes was the big difference."

Harding scored 23 points to lead the Wildcats. John added 17, Chapman had 12 with eight rebounds, Braxton scored 10 points and Michal Kozak added 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

The win was convincing for a team that scuffled to finish the regular season, especially considering PSU entered having won seven of its last eight games.

The margin was also surprising considering the Vikings (16-16) did what no other team in the country does better: crash the offensive glass. PSU hauled in 23 offensive rebounds and won the battle of second-chance points 25-2.

"We just have to stay the course and not put our head down," Harding said. "Our bigs did a good job down the stretch of getting rebounds, big rebounds."

Weber countered with defense, forcing PSU into 18 turnovers — winning points off turnovers 16-9 — and holding the Vikings to 24 of 79 (34.3 percent) shooting. That included holding PSU leading scorer Holland Woods, who finished with 19 points, to 2-of-10 shooting in the second half.

Kozak's performance included three blocks and gave the Wildcats a lift off the bench, his final stroke coming with six minutes left.

A technical foul to Doc Nelson gave Woods a pair of free throws and Robert McCoy slashed to the rim for a layup on the ensuing possession, cutting Weber's lead to 62-51.

Going the other way, Nelson drove through the defense into the key and kicked to Kozak in the corner, who calmly knocked down a 3 to wrest away any momentum that might've been going Portland State's way.

The victory moves Weber State into the semifinals for a contest against Montana at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Harding didn't seem concerned about the physical nature of the game going forward.

"We feel pretty good. It's our first win, we've got to get two more," Harding said. "Nothing's going to get in the way of that."

The Wildcats were 0-2 in two close games against the Griz this season.

"They're the best team in the league, that's what we want, go right at 'em," Rahe said. "We've got to get ready to go, we're going to compete like crazy and it should be one heck of a fun game."

Larry H Miller Riverdale logo LHM

Larry H. Miller Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Riverdale is proud to sponsor the Standard-Examiner's coverage of the Big Sky Conference basketball tournaments.

QUARTERFINAL SCORES

Montana 79, Sacramento State 73

Southern Utah 83, Northern Colorado 64

Eastern Washington 90, Montana State 84

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @bhein3/@WeberHQ and at facebook.com/WeberStateSports.

Brett Hein is the sports editor and covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner.

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