Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published March 15 2013
UND loses by two in semifinals of Big Sky men's basketball tournamentMISSOULA, Mont. – University of North Dakota coach Brian Jones said his team was playing its best basketball of the season heading into the Big Sky Conference men’s tournament.
He received no argument from Weber State, only praise.
It wasn’t enough, as Weber State rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to beat UND 76-74 on Friday night in the semifinal round of the Big Sky tournament.
Aaron Anderson’s 3-point attempt from the corner as time expired was off the mark, sending No. 2 seed Weber into tonight’s championship game against Montana. A berth in the NCAA tournament will be on the line.
For UND, the game could set the tone that the program is close to making the Big Dance.
“It was a great college game, fun for the players, the coaches and the fans,” Jones said. “It’s the type of game you want in March. And I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. We fought, scratched and did the little things you need to do to have a chance against a team like Weber.
“It hurts, because I felt like we had a good chance to win.”
UND had Weber on the ropes throughout and held a 56-44 lead on Brandon Brekke’s jumper with 15:42 to go.
But Weber responded, roaring back behind the dominant play of 6-foot-9 freshman Joel Bolomboy, who scored six straight points after Brekke’s basket – four coming on energizing dunks.
He scored those six points in a minute, and quickly Weber was back in it.
A player of few words, Bolomboy said: “I tried to get my team going.”
He did that, and Davion Berry (25 points) and Scott Bamforth (13) did the rest.
Weber (26-5) eventually took the lead, but back-to-back baskets by Brekke gave UND a 68-65 lead with four to go. From there, every possession was magnified, and Weber basically made one more play than UND.
Bamborth’s basket from the corner tied the game at 74-74 with 1:06 left. UND turned it over on its next possession. The Wildcats then went inside, and Kyle Tresnak’s one-hander in the lane gave Weber a 76-74 lead with 20 seconds to go.
That led to Anderson’s attempt at the buzzer.
“We were trying to play off our small lineup and get (Josh) Schuler a look because he had a big on him,” Jones said. “But we couldn’t exploit that matchup. They defended it pretty well. But Aaron still got a pretty good look.”
UND had a lot of great looks throughout. UND led 43-40 at the half, shooting 58 percent. Troy Huff (22 points), Jamal Webb (13) and Mitch Wilmer (11) got UND ahead in the early going. Huff’s thunderous slam on a lob from Webb ignited the crowd, which was hoping to see the upset.
“We were confident at that point,” Huff said.
UND hopes its season is not over. A berth in the CollegeInsider.com tournament is a possibility. UND has played in the last two tournaments. UND will hear Sunday if it is included in this year’s field.
“The way our guys have played down the stretch, this team deserves a CIT bid,” Jones said. “We’ve proved that we can play with anybody.”
NORTH DAKOTA (16-16): Wilmer 5-8 1-2 11, Anderson 4-9 1-2 9, Huff 10-21 0-0 22, Benton 0-2 0-0 0, Webb 5-9 2-2 13, Antwi 0-0 0-0 0, Allard 0-0 0-0 0, Brekke 5-9 1-2 11, Schuler 2-7 3-3 8, Archer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-65 8-11 74.
WEBER ST. (26-5): Otis 4-5 1-2 9, Tresnak 4-7 0-0 8, Bamforth 5-11 0-0 13, Richardson 1-3 0-0 2, Berry 7-19 10-12 25, Wheelwright 2-8 0-0 4, Bolomboy 6-9 1-1 13, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Hajek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-65 12-15 76.
Halftime: North Dakota 43-40. 3-Point Goals_North Dakota 4-11 (Huff 2-4, Schuler 1-3, Webb 1-3, Anderson 0-1), Weber St. 4-18 (Bamforth 3-9, Berry 1-6, Richardson 0-1, Wheelwright 0-2). Rebounds: North Dakota 31 (Brekke, Huff 8), Weber St. 39 (Bolomboy 8). Assists: North Dakota 13 (Webb 6), Weber St. 8 (Bamforth 3). Total Fouls: North Dakota 14, Weber St. 14.
Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald