GAME NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers welcome the Weber State Wildcats to the McLeon Center on Saturday night for a semifinal-round clash in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
The winner advances to Tuesday's championship game to face either Evansville or East Carolina.
Weber State hosted each of its first three games in the tournament, coming away with convincing wins over Cal Poly (85-43) and Air Force (78-57) before taking down Oral Roberts in the quarterfinals (83-74). The Wildcats have now won 16 of their last 17 games to improve to 29-6 overall, and they are the first Big Sky team ever to advance to the semifinal round of a national postseason tournament.
Much like its counterpart here, Northern Iowa hasn't faced much adversity on its way to the semifinals, taking care of North Dakota (77-66), Illinois- Chicago (63-51) and Bradley (90-77), all by double-digits. The Panthers are 21-14 overall and they have the longest-active streak of 20-plus win seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference (five).
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
The Wildcats faced a brief one-point deficit less than two minutes into their clash with Oral Roberts, but quickly grabbed hold of the lead and never trailed again, shooting greater than 49 percent from the field in what turned out to be a nine-point win. Davion Berry was the catalyst for Weber State, tallying 27 points, 10 assists and three steals. Kyle Tresnak was also impressive with 19 points and eight rebounds, and Scott Bamforth tacked on 18 points. Despite playing second-fiddle to Montana all season in the Big Sky, WSU was the league's best statistical team with the top-ranked offense (76.2 ppg, 50.8 FG percentage) and defense (61.2 ppg, .398 FG percentage). Berry drains greater than 48 percent of his field goal attempts for 15.2 ppg, while Bamforth (13.8 ppg) is lethal from 3-point range, making 95 long-range buckets at a 45 percent clip. Tresnak rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 12.0 ppg, while adding 5.5 rpg.
Northern Iowa picked an outstanding time for one of its best offensive efforts of the season in its quarterfinal matchup against Bradley, as it shot 58.9 percent from the field and overcame a 10-point first-half deficit to conquer the Braves. All five starters hit for double figures on the night, paced by 21 points from Anthony James, who shot 5-of-9 from 3-point range. Seth Tuttle logged 19 points and nine rebounds, Deon Mitchell had 10 points and eight assists, while Jake Koch and Marc Sonnen poured in 14 and 13 points, respectively. The Panthers are used to getting a well-rounded performance from their starting five, as each averages at least 9.5 ppg, with James leading the way with 13.5 ppg. Tuttle and Koch both haul in 6.5 rpg. while Mitchell hands out 3.6 apg and comes up with 1.3 spg to lead a team that scores 67.0 ppg while surrendering just 62.0 ppg.
Despite putting together an outstanding 29-win season, Weber State received a tough draw having to travel to the McLeod Center where UNI is an impressive 16-3 this season. That said, the Wildcats have been strong on the road (10-5), and with their combination of potent offense and stout defense, they should be able to find a way to get past the Panthers and into the championship game.
Game Date and Time