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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Montana fans take home-court advantage too far

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

As if Damian Lillard didn't already face a daunting enough challenge trying to lead his team back from a double-digit second-half deficit in Wednesday's Big Sky title game, Montana fans tried to make it even harder on the Weber State star.

Overzealous fans seated directly behind the basket shook the stanchion while Lillard was shooting free throws with just under four minutes to play in hopes of forcing him to hit a moving target. Lillard was smart enough to notice and to alert the referees, who chided the culprits and allowed the junior guard to wait until the rim stopped moving to shoot his second free throw.

Montana certainly didn't need the added advantage to win a second Big Sky tournament in the past three years. The top-seeded Grizzlies withstood a 29-point onslaught from Lillard and throttled the second-seeded Wildcats 85-66, securing an NCAA tournament bid and extending Weber State's NCAA tournament drought to five years.

[Related: Projecting the NCAA tourney field of 68 | Automatic bids]

If Montana (25-6, 15-1) can score as efficiently as it did in the second half on Wednesday night, the Grizzlies will be a dangerous opening-round opponent for an unsuspecting No. 2 or 3 seed. They rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to pull away in the final 10 minutes, a comeback fueled by 23 points apiece from junior forward Mathias Ward and sophomore wing Kareem Jamar.

Montana was particularly tough on its home floor this season, defeating Weber State twice and mid-major powers Long Beach State and Nevada. The good news for its future NCAA tournament opponent is it will face the Grizzlies on a neutral court, which probably means it will get to shoot at a stationary basket.

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