It was an outstanding birthday “gift” received by University of Montana’s head basketball coach Wayne Tinkle on Saturday night (Jan. 26).

The seventh-year mentor celebrated his 47th birthday with a hard-fought, tense 76-74 Big Sky Conference victory by his Grizzly team over the Weber State Wildcats in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

It wrapped up the first half of the conference season for the Grizzlies, which finished with a perfect 10-0 league record, and they improved to 14-4 overall. It was the 21st Big Sky win in a row for Montana.

The teams meet again in three weeks on Feb. 14 in Ogden. WSU is the last team to defeat the Grizzlies (80-64, Jan. 14, 2012) in a regular-season conference contest.

It was a great college basketball game between the Big Sky two best teams, and a great performance by Griz senior point guard Will Cherry.

The outcome between two teams that were ranked in the recent Mid-Major Poll (WSU was 22nd and UM was 23rd) went down to the wire. There were 12 lead changes and the score was tied 11 times.