Weber State has a chance to hit the reset button on its slow start in the Big Sky Conference.
The Wildcats stumbled out of the gates with homecourt losses to Montana and Montana State two weeks ago. The surprising setbacks put the preseason favorites to win the league in a deep hole. Though wins over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State got a recovery started, victories this weekend would complete it.
"We've got a great team here. We just believe in ourselves," junior guard Jermaine Boyette said after Weber State evened its Big Sky record at 2-2. "Now we go back and play (Montana and Montana State) on the road this weekend. So, we've got to get those two back. We've got a little momentum now."
That, however, may not be enough. Weber State coach Joe Cravens isn't mincing any words about the task ahead.
"To have any success this weekend, we need to be ready mentally and physically for the hardest 80 minutes of basketball we will face all season," he said.
Though 10 conference games still remain to be played, Weber State's hopes of hosting the Big Sky tournament would all but officially be dashed with second losses to either Montana team. Both teams have already won at least twice on the road in league play. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are embarking on their first Big Sky trip.
They'll start out in Missoula. When the teams met Jan. 5 in Ogden, Weber State had trouble defending Griz guard David Bell. He nailed four consecutive 3-pointers in the final eight minutes of Montana's 80-73 victory.
"They can be explosive as any team in the league. David Bell has established himself as the premiere outside shooter in the league and we saw up close and personal how good he can be," said Cravens. "Their size and quickness up front really hurt us."
After Friday's game, the Wildcats travel to Bozeman for a meeting with the league's hottest team on Saturday.
Montana State is 3-0 in conference play with all three victories coming on the road. The triumphs include a 64-62 decision in the Dee Events Center on Jan. 3. The Bobcats hit 10 3-pointers in the contest.
"Mentally, they might be the toughest team in the Big Sky. They have really pulled together as a unit which is what all coaches strive to achieve," said Cravens. "Winning three games on the road this early really puts them in the driver's seat to host the tournament with seven of their last 11 at home."
Weber State (11-6) at Montana (8-8)
Friday, 7:35 p.m.
Radio: KLO, 1430 AM