OGDEN, Utah — Montana State coach Brian Fish marvels at the way Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy rebounds the basketball.
“He’s a beast on the boards,” Fish said this week. “I’m not sure I’ve seen a rebounder like that in a long, long time.
“The best comparison I would give to our fans is (former Wyoming standout) Larry Nance, but I’m not sure he’s not a way better rebounder than Nance. He goes and pops the ball. He’s really impressive. He’s a 10-year pro when he leaves.”
But an injured Bolomboy might not be in the lineup when the Bobcats visit Weber State on Thursday, and that could be a good thing for underdog MSU (12-14, 7-7), which is looking to make a bigger imprint within the Big Sky Conference — especially against teams at the top of the league.
Bolomboy, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound senior, has more rebounds than anyone in Big Sky history. His 13.0 per-game rebounding average this season ranks No. 2 in Division I. He averages 17.6 points, to boot.
Yet the league MVP candidate suffered a bruised left knee against Northern Arizona last Saturday, and Weber State coach Randy Rahe said there is no timetable for his return.
“I saw the injury on film and it certainly didn’t look good,” Fish said. “I’ve been in the business long enough to know that takes some time to bounce back. But at the same time I don’t think it changes them a lot.
“It takes a pro out of their lineup, but they’re not a one-pony show. Their other scholarship (players) are very good. It will just give (another) guy an opportunity to do some things. Bolomboy is very impressive on film, and he’d be hard to replace. But I think they’ll (do) it as a group. So it won ‘t change much.”
Said MSU point guard Marcus Colbert: “We’re worried about what we’re going to do. If we’re going to win it has to come from us. We’re not really worried about what they bring or who’s going to play. We’ve just got to take care of ourselves.”
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With or without Bolomboy, history is not on the Bobcats’ side.
Weber State has won five in a row against Montana State, and eight of the past nine. MSU has lost six in a row at the Dee Events Center, and 10 of the past 11.
“That’s just a game you get up for when you play Weber. A top team in the league,” Colbert said. “You’ve got to get up for a game like that. Especially there, they’ve got a great crowd always. So it’s a fun environment to play in.”
Mathematically, the Bobcats are still in contention to earn a top-four seed and a first-round bye for the Big Sky tournament. In that context, this is the biggest road trip of the season.
Weber State (20-7, 12-2) is in a tie for first place with Montana (17-8, 12-2). Those two teams go head-to-head on Saturday in a game that will probably decide the league’s regular-season title.
The Bobcats travel to Idaho State (14-12, 9-5) on Saturday as their late-season litmus test continues.
“If we’re ever going to make a name for ourselves and climb up in the league, you’ve got to beat these teams,” Fish said. “You’ve got to go on the road and find a way to win.”
NOTES: Bobcats G Tyler Hall already owns the school’s freshman scoring record, but he’s now 26 rebounds shy of setting freshman rebounding mark at MSU. … Rahe, in his 10th year at Weber, has won 176 Big Sky games, the most in history. … Weber State G Jeremy Senglin has scored 20 or more points 14 times, and ranks sixth in the Big Sky in scoring (18.4 ppg). … MSU’s 12 wins are five more than last season, the eighth-best improvement from one season to the next in MSU history and the second-best by a second-year head coach.