Lillard was fantastic per usual. The two-time Big Sky MVP finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. Unfortunately for the NBA lottery pick and his Wildcat teammates, it simply was not enough. Weber State was eliminated from the Big Sky Tournament by Montana for the third straight season. But the pill is much more bitter for Randy Rahe's squad. In each of those three contests, Weber State led at halftime. The Grizzlies outscored the Wildcats in the second half of those three games by 29, 21, and 24 respectively. The torrential second half onslaught has become all too familiar for the folks from Ogden, Utah.
One could readily see the aura of confidence, mixed with a hint of feeling slighted, on the faces of each and every one of the Montana cogs. How can a team who finished the regular season at 15-1 feel snubbed? Weber State, and its star Lillard, have been the story of the Big Sky for the entire season. And believe me, Montana head coach Wayne Tinkel, and his terrific point guard Will Cherry took that alleged cold shoulder personally. They say it is suicide to mess with a wounded bear. That fact was assured throughout the second half of the Big Sky season and the second half of the Big Sky Tournament Final. Montana simply would not be denied.
The Grizzlies proved, with emphasis, that they are the best team in the Big Sky. Montana won 17 of its 18 conference match-ups during the season. And how about that one loss? Well, the Grizzlies just dominated the team that beat them, Weber State, twice in just a week's time. Big Sky Tourney MVP Kareem Jamar scored 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting. Mathias Ward provided the spark Montana needed to take control of the game in the middle of the second half. Ward finished with 23 points as well.
Now the Griz look forward to Selection Sunday, where Montana can hope for a spot in the 14-line. This squad has all the makings of a team that can win a first-round game. No one plays with as much defensive tenacity as the Grizzlies. And, as evidenced tonight, no one can turn scorn to glory quite like the 2011-2012 Montana Grizzlies. The Big Sky Conference will be well-represented come Tournament time. Someone tell Montana that no one expects anything of them come next weekend. Montana fans know how it will turn out.