MISSOULA, Mont. — Weber State has won 24 games this season — the most of any Division I program in the state of Utah. The Wildcats went 18-2 in conference and are currently riding an 11-game win streak. WSU also leads the nation in field goal percentage (50.8 percent), 3-point percentage (43.3 percent) and 3-point defense percentage (28 percent), the only team in the country to top three statistical team categories.
All of that means zip-a-dee-doo-dah if Weber State drops one of the next three games during the Big Sky Tournament in Missoula, Mont. With the nature of the selection process, the Big Sky is a one bid league, and a loss could potentially drop WSU as far down as the CIT.
The last time the second-seeded ’Cats captured the tournament championship was in 2007 against Northern Arizona. The journey to return to the big dance in 2013 begins against the No. 7 Lumberjacks (11-20) Thursday at 3 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena.
“I’m wired a little bit different, I’m a little sick sometimes, but I don’t mind going up there and playing,” WSU coach Randy Rahe, whose team faces the task of winning three games in three days, said. “I love the challenge. The bigger the challenge — the more I love it."
Weber won both meetings with NAU this season; 83-70 in Ogden and 80-78 in overtime in Flagstaff less than two weeks ago. The Wildcats were down by seven points with 1:08 to play before clawing back.
“We’re not going to overlook them this time — I know that,” WSU’s Frank Otis said. “We’re going to try and come out and put them away early. If we don’t and we slip up — we can lose the game. We got a goal in mind and that’s trying to win the Big Sky Championship.”
NAU is led by first-team all-BSC guard Gabe Rogers (18.1 ppg), who leads the Big Sky in scoring. He’s scored in double figures in 16 straight games and averaged 20.1 points per game in league play. Also, guard DeWayne Russell (14.4 ppg) and former Judge Memorial hooper Stallon Saldivar (5.8 rpg and 4.7 apg) help pace NAU’s offense.
“I don’t sleep at night. I think of losing in the championship, twice to Montana,” Scott Bamforth said of playing in the BSC tournament for his third time. “That’s all I think about — that feeling of losing in the locker room. I remember sitting in the locker room with tears in my eyes. I’m over that feeling. I want tears of joy.”
Wildcats on the Air
2013 Big Sky Tournament Quarterfinals
No.2 Weber State (24-5) vs. No. 7 Northern Arizona (11-20)
Thursday, 3 p.m.
Missoula, Mont., Dahlberg Arena
Online video: bigskytv.org