Weber State Basketball: Wildcats look to even series with Montana

Weber State Basketball: Wildcats look to even series with Montana

by Dominic Ferrucci

Weber State will look to get back in the win column in a conference battle with Montana in the second leg of their two game series. The Wildcats came into Thursday night’s game winners of four in a row, and then fell at the hands of the Grizzlies 80-67.

Now, sitting at 6-3 in Big Sky play and 11-5 overall, tomorrow afternoon’s game will be pivotal. The Big Sky Tournament is beginning on March 10, 2021 in Boise. Since the top five teams earn a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Tournament, and the Wildcats now sit in third place, the margin for error is small. Both Montana State and Idaho State are sharing the same conference record of 6-3. Tomorrow’s game will once again come on the road, where Weber State has struggled. They are boasting only a 3-5 record outside of the Dee Events Center this year.

In order to pick up a win, the Wildcats will need to play better defensively. They allowed a season high in opponent’s field goal percentage. They allowed Montana to shoot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from three point range. That well above the Grizzlies’ season average of 37 percent from downtown. The three-ball was the difference Thursday. Slowing down the Montana attack, which ranks first in the Big Sky in three-point field goal percentage, will be crucial.

In addition, the bench play will need to improve tomorrow if the Wildcats want to pick up a key road win. Getting outscored 33-13 in the first matchup, senior Michal Kozak and sophomore KJ Cunningham will need to pick up the production to keep up with freshman Dillion Jones. Jones saw action in 28 minutes Thursday night, matching his season high. He tallied in double figures for his fourth game this year. The freshman missed just one shot, and will look to build on his production Saturday. This will aid sophomore Seikou Sisoho Jawara, who recorded a team high 19 points in the losing effort.

Second chance opportunities could help the offensive numbers for both players as Montana has been keen to giving opponents second lives to their possessions. The Grizzlies allow offensive boards on 29 percent of their opponent’s possessions. That is something that Weber State must take advantage of if they want to be successful this afternoon.

On the defensive side, the Wildcats must look to force turnovers. That means keeping the ball out of the hands of Montana sophomore Matt Owens, who comes into tomorrow’s meeting fresh off of a 27 point outing. Owens was the leading scorer Thursday night and the only Montana starter that scored in double digits. Weber State is third in the conference at forcing turnovers. They do so on nearly 21 percent of opponent possessions.

Winning the turnover battle in this one could be the difference in the second game. The two tied Thursday night in that department, each suffering 12 giveaways. The Wildcats never led last time these teams squared off. That is why a fast start is imperative. Montana has yet to sweep a series in Big Sky play this year, and the Wildcats would love to be a part of this trend come tomorrow afternoon. Fans should expect a competitive basketball game with two teams looking to ride some momentum into Big Sky tournament play.

Keys to the Game

  • Start fast: Weber St. Never led in Thursday’s matchup and have yet to lose while leading at the halftime
  • No free points: Montana shot 85% from the line on Thursday and is second in conference
    play shooting 79% overall
  • Exploit the Saturday struggles: Montana is 0-6 against Division 1 opponents on Saturdays, while Weber State is 3-1 on such occasions

Featured image courtesy Weber State

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