GAME NOTES: Unlike most of the conference tournaments in college basketball, the Big Sky rewards the top performing team during the regular season by offering that squad an opportunity to host the event.
That's where top-seeded Weber State comes in tonight, as it takes on the Northern Colorado Bears in the semifinals at the Dee Events Center.
The Wildcats, winners of this event a total of eight times, dominated the competition during the regular season, at least in the conference, as they built a 14-6 record in Big Sky action after having a rough start to the non- conference schedule. Should WSU win tonight, it would mean a third straight appearance in the championship round of the tourney, after losing each of the last two years to Montana.
As for the sixth-seeded Bears, a team which won the title back in 2011 but is still only 4-3 in the tourney all-time, they scored an upset in the quarterfinals on Thursday night with a 62-60 triumph over third-seeded Northern Arizona.
In terms of the all-time series between the squads, Weber State leads by a count of 12-4 after they both won on their home floor during the regular season. The Wildcats posted a 79-65 victory here in Ogden in February.
The winner of this meeting heads to the finals on Saturday to face the survivor of the Portland State/North Dakota battle for the right to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Derrick Barden's layup with just over two minutes remaining in regulation on Thursday gave the Bears a four-point advantage against Northern Arizona and eventually proved to be the game-winning score in the close call with the Lumberjacks. Barden finished the meeting with 15 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor, followed by Tevin Svihovec and Tate Unruh with 14 and 12 points, respectively, for a squad that connected on 46.2 percent from the floor and just 4-of-12 behind the 3-point line.
Barden continues to head a list of double-digit scorers at this stage of the campaign with his 13.8 ppg, thanks to his impressive 58.1 percent shooting from the floor. Unruh follows with 12.7 ppg, courtesy of 41.7 percent accuracy out behind the 3-point line.
Weber State's Davion Berry was named the league's most valuable player by the coaches as he ranked third in the conference in scoring (19.2 ppg) and also accounted for 4.5 rpg and 4.0 apg, on his way to being a unanimous All-Big Sky First Team selection. Kyle Tresnak (11.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) was named to the All- Big Sky Second Team, while Joel Bolomboy was recognized as the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year. Bolomboy (8.8 ppg) often sacrificed his own offense in order to provide the team with a huge presence in the paint (10.9 rpg). Picking up Freshman of the Year honors was Jeremy Senglin (11.3 ppg) who shot 40.7 percent behind the 3-point line for Weber State, as they bounced back from a weak opening to the season.
Thanks to the added time to rest and the ability to enjoy familiar surroundings, as well as a biased crowd, expect to see the Wildcats take advantage of all those benefits as they advance in the tourney.
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