MISSOULA — Armed with the confidence that comes from a breakthrough win, the sky-high Montana and Weber State women's basketball teams will clash Wednesday in a game with big postseason tourney ramifications.
Both squads harbor hopes of securing a bye in the first round of next week's Big Sky Conference tournament. The Wildcats are a better bet to get it done by finishing fourth or better — they're currently in a four-way tie for third with two regular-season home games remaining.
Considering the Lady Griz are in seventh and have their next two games on the road, including Wednesday's duel in Ogden, Utah, they have to be considered a long shot. But stranger things have happened.
"A lot of times teams make runs at the end of the year when they're shooting the ball well and that's a huge part of it, getting hot at the right time," said Montana coach Shannon Schweyen, whose team hit a season-best 54.5 percent of its attempts from the floor in Saturday's win over Montana State.
"I think we can do some damage if we shoot the ball well."
It wasn't just the shooting that keyed Montana's blowout of the Cats. The Lady Griz dominated the boards, 48-23, and stymied Montana State with a 2-3 zone defense.
Still, Weber State's 105-88 win at Idaho Saturday was even more eye-opening. Five players scored 15 or more points for the cat-quick Wildcats, including Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman with 23.
"They're the type of team that can score in a hurry on you," Schweyen said. "They take as many threes as Bozeman does and they have lots of quick guards that can get up and down.
"They're quick to the ball and the (transfer) Larryn Brooks is just something else. She's a very talented player. She started as a freshman at Indiana and then ended up going to Texas Tech and ended up at Weber."
If you believe in the old adage steel sharpens steel, this week sets up well for Montana heading into the league tournament. Weber State and Idaho State, Montana's Friday foe, are both among the league leaders.
Lady Griz guard Madi Schoening believes her team is better-equipped to play on the road than it was two weeks ago when it lost at Portland State and Sacramento State. Back then Montana was still adjusting to life without freshman phenom Sophia Stiles, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 3
"Definitely for us it's important to bring our own energy on the road," Schoening said. "I think the North Dakota game, our first road win in two years (on Jan. 4), we had incredible energy. You can see it in the film. Bringing that same energy to the gym this week will be huge for us."
Schweyen is excited to see if her team can carry over its success from Saturday.
"You want to play someone like Weber after you've been playing well," she said. "It probably is good timing.
"Hopefully we can take some of that shooting touch we had here and have it carry over down there. We need to make sure we come out with intensity like we did Saturday for 40 minutes. That's such a big key being on the road."
Montana is 3-6 in true road games and Weber is 12-2 at home. The Wildcats' success has helped their home attendance numbers. They're averaging over 1,000 fans per conference game at the Dee Events Center.
Montana may need an offensive effort like Saturday's to win in Ogden, Utah. An effort that included five players scoring in double figures.
"We don't necessarily have to rely on one superstar now and I think that just really makes us a tough team to beat," Schoening said.