Despite a well-contested first 30 minutes of the game, the Weber State University men’s basketball team fell behind in the final minutes to the University of Montana, losing 68-57. The loss brought WSU to 14-9 on the season, 11-4 in the Big Sky Conference.
“We played hard tonight,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “We are running into teams that are ready to play us and are excited to play us. I wouldn’t say we have hit a wall, but I would say our confidence is a little bit down right now. The road can do that to you. We’ve got to get that confidence back up.”
The Wildcats were the first team on the board. WSU looked to establish an inside presence early in the game. Center Kyle Tresnak had two early baskets, including a 3-point play, to give WSU an early 9-2 lead.
The Wildcats hit a cold streak and the Grizzlies heated up, going on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 12-12 with 13 minutes left in the half. UM took advantage of long rebounds from WSU, bursting past the Wildcats on three fast breaks.
Both teams had success inside the lane, exchanging buckets to remain tied midway through the period. With eight minutes left, the game was tied 20-20.
The Grizzlies pushed their lead to four with three minutes left in the half. The Wildcats tied the game back up with two buckets from freshman Kyndahl Hill, including an alley-oop slam dunk.
The Wildcats took the lead on a free throw from senior Davion Berry, but the Grizzlies held the ball for the last shot and made a layup at the buzzer to give UM a 33-32 lead into halftime.
Tresnak led all scorers with 13 points. All of his field goals came from inside the painted area. Freshman Jeremy Senglin and Berry both added five points for WSU.
Senior Kareem Jamar led UM with 11 points. Junior Mike Weisner added seven points and four rebounds for the Grizzlies.
Both teams combined for a total of 38 points in the paint in the first half. The Wildcats shot 54 percent from the field in the half.
The Grizzlies started out hot in the second half, while the Wildcats struggled. UM pushed its lead to five early in the first two minutes of the half.
But the Wildcats finally got going, scoring seven unanswered to take a 41-39 lead with 15 minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats were white-hot behind the arc to begin the half, scoring a pair from three. But Jamar responded with a three of his own to regain the lead for UM.
Tresnak continued to keep the Wildcats in the game, scoring at will inside. But he also was in foul trouble and was forced to sit with four fouls with eight minutes left in the game.
UM took advantage, pushing its lead to 10 points with four minutes left in the game. Junior Eric Hutchison had three layups on three straight possessions for the Grizzlies.
Tresnak returned late in the game, continuing his work inside. But UM could not be stopped, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field in the second half.
“When you can’t get stops when you want to get stops, you can’t get out on the break,” Rahe said. “We couldn’t get any easy baskets because we didn’t stop them enough. We obviously have to fix that somewhere along the line. We’ve got to get our defense back a little bit.”
The Wildcats were able to score in the final minutes, but their defense was unable to stop the Grizzlies, who continued their streak against WSU in Montana.
Jamar led all scorers with 25 points on 11-19 shooting. Hutchison added nine points for UM.
“Our team was ready to play tonight,” Rahe said. “I thought they competed really hard. We ran into a team that played really good basketball tonight. They played better than us and they won. Montana is a really good basketball team.”
Tresnak finished the game with 23 points before fouling out in the final minute of the game. Berry added 12 points and four assists.
“It’s just a little adversity,” Tresnak said. “We fought really hard up here. (Missoula is) a tough place to play.”
The loss brought the Wildcats’ Big Sky lead to just one game over the University of Northern Colorado.
The Wildcats played Montana State University on Saturday. That game will be covered in the Wednesday edition of The Signpost and at www.wsusignpost.com.