MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND comes up short in Big Sky upset bid

MISSOULA, Mont. -- UND coach Brian Jones said his team was playing its best basketball of the season heading into the Big Sky Conference men's basketball postseason tournament.

MISSOULA, Mont. -- UND coach Brian Jones said his team was playing its best basketball of the season heading into the Big Sky Conference men's basketball postseason tournament.

He received no argument from Weber State, only praise.

UND's best performance as a Division I program, however, wasn't enough as powerful, athletic Weber State rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to beat North Dakota 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 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 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.

Weber's confidence, at that point, was being tested.

"I thought UND played as well as they can possibly play," said Weber coach Randy Rahe. "They were playing fast and they were making every shot known to man. We got just enough stops. Hats off to North Dakota. They were well prepared; they played terrific and I'm sure that's a tough loss for them."

UND (16-16) came in the semifinal having won eight of its last 11 games. At full health for the first time since the beginning of the season, UND indeed was playing its best basketball of the season.


"When you're missing three starters like we did for part of the season, you're not winning games," Jones said. "But we stayed the course."

And UND nearly took down a team many believe is the best unit in the Big Sky.

"We had confidence coming in," said Webb. "And we played good defense."

UND hopes its season is not over. A berth in the 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."

Nelson reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1268; or send e-mail to .

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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