College basketball • Weber State pushes past Idaho State as Montana looms.
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Ogden • The Weber State players denied it.
Their coach hoped they were telling the truth.
Yet, even as the Wildcats completed their workmanlike 56-40 Big Sky Conference victory against a poor Idaho State team in the Dee Events Center on Monday, another school dominated the conversation.
On Thursday, conference leader Montana rolls into Ogden for what looks to be the game of the year for Weber State (17-5, 12-2 Big Sky). Both teams have already clinched a berth in the conference tournament.
"That's how you slip up, thinking about the next game," said WSU forward Frank Otis, moments after enjoying a 10-point, 10-rebound effort.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe echoed Otis' remarks, but then acknowledged how his team might have looked, even slightly, ahead to Thursday against the streaking Grizzlies, owners of a two-game conference lead.
"If we did it, I guess it showed a little bit because there were times when we weren't very sharp," Rahe said. "I've always said to the guys, the biggest game on the schedule, the biggest game of the year, is the next game.
"It's here now, so we'll get ready to play them."
For certain, Weber State will need a better effort mentally if it hopes to stop Montana (18-4, 14-0).
The Wildcats suffered 16 turnovers against Idaho State (4-19, 3-11). Part of it was also the Bengals' stingy zone defense, but many were self-inflicted.
Weber State never trailed, building as much as a 17-point lead late in the first half. Davion Berry, Kyle Tresnak and Otis combined for 39 points.
"They have one of the best zone defenses in our league and we just couldn't get going against it tonight," Otis said.
The closest the Bengals came was 35-28 early in the second half. Weber State answered with a 14-3 run, fueled by a pair of Gelaun Wheelwright 3-point baskets.
Defensively, ISU's 40 were the least points allowed by the Wildcats in two seasons. Yet Rahe had issues about his team's enthusiasm in the first half.
"I didn't feel like in the first half we were quite emotionally invested like I hoped we'd be," Rahe said. "We were just a little bit off, and I thought that showed again in how we turned the ball over.
"But second half and we came out, and after the first four minutes, I thought we got our enthusiasm up, our energy up. From that point on we guarded really, really well."
Now, bring on Montana.
Storylines Big Sky is the limit
R With its victory Monday, Weber State clinches a berth in the Big Sky Conference tournament.
• Weber State outrebounds Idaho State 35-20. Frank Otis and Joel Bolomboy lead the way with 10 and nine, respectively.
• The Wildcats go on a 14-3 run early in the second half to open a 17-point lead.