Griz, Weber men to battle for Big Sky Tourney title Saturday - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Griz, Weber men to battle for Big Sky Tourney title Saturday

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Reno, NV -

Montana's basketball men will play in the Big Sky Conference championship for a second straight year after avenging an earlier loss to Idaho late Friday night with an 81-72 victory in the tournament semifinal. 

The No. 2 Grizzlies now move on to face No. 1 Weber State Saturday night with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. Weber needed overtime to beat North Dakota 83-78 in the other semifinal.

Montana (21-10, 14-4 BSC) returns to the Big Sky championship game for the 17 time, seven of those now against the Wildcats.

The Big Sky title game is set to tip at 6:45 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPNU, and available to stream live at watchespn.com.

The Grizzlies shot a season-high 65.1 percent from the field on 28-43 shooting in Friday’s defeat of the Vandals, including 71.4 percent in the second half on 15-21 field goals. Idaho had entered with the Big Sky’s best scoring defense, allowing opponents just 66 points per game.

Idaho closed UM’s lead to two points with 11:45 left to play, but the Griz then clamped down the defense and built their largest lead of the game at 12 points with two minutes left.

“We’ve weathered the storm a few times this year, and the games that we’ve lost, we didn’t, and I think we’ve matured from those losses,” said Montana head coach Travis DeCuire.

“We did a good job of fighting and just stuck to the script in terms of game plan. We made a couple mistakes here and there that we paid for, and that kept us active, but our aggression carried over on both sides of the ball.”

Four Griz players scored in double figures, led by Martin Breunig with 22 points, and followed by Walter Wright who posted 20 points and six assists. It’s the sixteenth time Breunig has posted 20-plus points this season. Michael Oguine and Bobby Moorehead scored 13 points each.

Moorehead was a perfect 5-5 from the field, including 3-3 from behind the three-point line.

“We’re going to start calling him big shot Bob because he makes them at all the right times,” joked DeCuire.

Breunig has now scored 584 points this season, sixth-best in single season in school history.  In his illustrious two-year career, the senior forward from Germany has now posted 1,118 points, moving him into No. 19 on the UM all-time scoring list.

After stating slowly and allowing the Vandals an early 13-8 lead, Montana answered with a 19-3 run in the final 10 minutes of the opening half to lead by eight at the break. The run was highlighted by a string of three consecutive treys - one from Wright, then two from Moorehead - all while UM’s defense forced a Vandal scoring drought of more than seven minutes.

The win sets up a perfect storm of preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2, with the winner advancing to next week's NCAA Tournament.

Montana and Weber State have only played once this season, with the Wildcats winning 60-54 in Ogden.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said DeCuire.

“Randy Rahe is probably the best coach in the conference. His team is playing well, they have the player of the year. We’ve got two post players that are looking to play at the next level and will be playing against one another, which I think will be exciting for our conference and our fans. We’re looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a dogfight and it will be even more physical than tonight.”

The last time the two met in the Big Sky championship was in 2012-13 when the Griz won 67-64 in Missoula.

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