The NAU men’s basketball team continued its improbable run toward an NCAA Tournament berth with an 83-71 win over Montana in the semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament on Tuesday in Boise, Idaho.
The Lumberjacks, the No. 9 seed in the tournament, will play in the conference title game on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. in a game scheduled to air on ESPN2.
A win would give them their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and just their third ever (1998).
NAU advanced to the final with an 87-76 win over No. 10 Idaho on Saturday before upsetting No. 1 Eastern Washington on Sunday. Montana was the No. 4 seed.
The Lumberjacks will face No. 2 seed Montana State in the title game after the Bobcats edged No. 3 Weber State in the other semifinal Tuesday in two overtimes, 60-58.
NAU lost to Montana State in Flagstaff on Jan. 7, 69-54. It lost to the Bobcats in Bozeman, Montana, on Feb. 32, 69-68.
More:NAU basketball upsets Big Sky Tournament No. 1 seed Eastern Washington on buzzer-beater
This is NAU’s first time in the conference title game since 2008.
NAU improved to 12-22 overall with the win over Montana. Junior Jalen Cone led the Lumberjacks with 28 points and went 6-for-10 from 3-point range and 8-for-12 from the field.
Xavier Fuller and Carson Towt added 14 points each for NAU.
NAU was behind Montana at the half by two points, then outscored the Grizzlies 51-37 in the second half after shooting 56.7% from the field.
“What a fun night tonight is. It’s not even close to being done with yet, we have a lot of work to do after this game. But let’s go to the fun part right now – I couldn’t be happier for all of the fans of Northern Arizona University, representing our great University and Flagstaff, Ariz.,” head coach Shane Burcar said. “Jalen Cone and Carson Towt played remarkable games. I won’t say unreal or unbelievable, because this is who these guys are every single night. The other eight guys in our locker room are so well connected and when you have a belief in something and your mindset is proper, you can go on these run rides. It’s not even a miracle ride for us right now. I couldn’t be happier for everybody. And the character of these young men is why we have a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament.”
Reach Jeremy Cluff at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Jeremy_Cluff.
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