Conference champions find ways to win close games at the end, even under the most adverse conditions.

So Weber State's 72-68 victory over Boise State Saturday night, accomplished without their top inside man, should bode well in the Wildcats' drive for the Big Sky season crown. The Wildcats rallied in the second half and converted two huge plays down the stretch to win their seventh straight and improve to 9-2 in league, 16-7 overall.With the score tied at 65-all and the shot clock winding down, Lewis Lofton - who by his own admission had struggled offensively all night - canned a three-point shot from 30 feet out to give Weber a 68-65 lead with two minutes to go. Then, after Boise tied the game and blew a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, JC transfer Andy Smith from Taylorsville calmly made two free throws with five seconds left to give the Cats a lead they'd never relinquish.

The victory spoiled a great shooting exhibition by the Broncos, who drained 14 of 31 three-point shots, both season highs for BSU. Damon Archibald made four of those treys, but he acknowledged that Weber made the plays "good teams make at the end. We gave it all we had, but it wasn't enough tonight."

Weber State star Kirk Smith's absence was clearly evident in the first half, when Boise State dominated underneath. Weber took quick 8-0 and 10-2 leads as Ruben Nembhard scored eight of Weber's first 10 points. But the Broncos came back quickly, going on an 8-0 run as Archibald nailed three straight field goals, including two treys, to tie the contest at 16-all.

Darnell Woods' layin with 8:45 in the half gave the Broncs their first lead at 19-18, but consecutive hoops from Nembhard pulled Weber up 22-19. At that point, Boise State began an 11-4 run to take a 30-26 lead. A free throw from Nembhard and a basket by Jeff Lentfer with four seconds left pulled the Wildcats to within one at 30-29 at the break.

Weber righted itself in the second half but could never pull away from the Broncos, who rained in three-pointers seemingly at will. The Wildcats, however, bent but didn't break, never trailing after a three-pointer by Jimmy DeGraffenried gave Weber a 49-47 lead with 12:25 left.

"We seemed to find ways to make the big plays when we needed them," coach Ron Abegglen stated. "Obviously we struggled defensively, but we thought coming in that if we shut down their inside game we'd be all right. Boise did a great job of countering that strategy."

Abegglen called the win "a great gut check, a confidence-builder for us. It was a big victory without Kirk inside."

Nembhard led all scorers with 29 points, while DeGraffenried added 20. Archibald led BSU with 19 points.

And Weber got some unexpected help in Flagstaff, where Northern Arizona upset Idaho State 86-81 to give the Wildcats a game-and-a-half lead over Montana in the Big Sky standings. ISU is now two full games back with three to play.