by Dominic Ferrucci
It all went the Wildcats’ way on Thursday night in a dominating win over the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona as Weber State ended up winning 92-59. Everything came together for coach Randy Rahe’s squad on a night that saw 18 three pointers and ten players contribute in the scoring column.
The 18 three-pointers were part of a 56 percent shooting night for the Wildcats while stifling NAU to 38 percent and forcing 15 turnovers on the defensive end. Offensively, the hot shooting is part of a trend that has seen Weber State shoot over 50 percent in five of their last seven games. The Wildcats have now scored over 90 points for the second straight game and have scored over 80 points in the last 11 games of which they own a 9-2 record. With the win, Weber. St now sits at 8-3 in the Big Sky and all signs point to the Wildcats playing their best basketball headed into March.
There was energy in the Dee Events Center from the onset with the Wildcats looking refreshed and energized off their win at Montana last Saturday. The energy led to a 16 point halftime lead. This was fueled in large part to a 15-2 run late in the frame, stretching Weber State’s lead to 37-22. The run started with a Michael Kozak three. He built off his 13 point performance Saturday with 14 points in the win. It was his first start since the Wildcat’s December 20, 2020 loss against Portland State.
Kozak only missed one shot and was part of four starters to score in double figures. Kozak was accompanied in the starting lineup with freshman Dillon Jones who earned his first collegiate start Thursday. The two saw extended run in the absence of starters Dontay Bassett and Zahir Porter. Jones had a quiet scoring night, but found a way to affect the game in other ways. He dished out a career high eight assists. Coach Rahe commented said Jones’ passing was “off the charts”. The eight assists were part of a team total of 21, the highest number in a game against a division I opponent. On the receiving end of many of his dimes was senior Isiah Brown.
Brown was certainly the MVP of the night, pouring in a career high of 31 points in just 27 minutes. For the talk about NAU’s Cameron Shelton’s stellar play, Brown looked like a player that wanted to show he was the best player on the court. Brown has now scored in double digits in 17 of 18 games. He is also shooting over 50 percent in games at the Dee Events Center this year. Brown’s six three-pointers on Thursday night were part of a school record 18 threes against a division I opponent. He topped off the performance with five assists to just one turnover. Brown is certainly making a case for Big Sky Player of the Year.
For NAU, star guard Cam Shelton struggled for much of the game in the team’s first game back off an extended pause. Shelton shot 7-19, making just one three-point field goal. Again, he was not aided in his efforts to keep the game competitive. Junior Luke Avdalovic’s 12 points was the only other double digit output. Avdalovic made three of NAU’s six threes in 29 minutes off the bench. The 92-59 loss was the worst conference loss for the Lumberjacks since the 2017-2018 season. That year, they suffered a 95-55 loss against none other than Weber State. The teams will meet again Saturday at noon for the second leg of the series.
What to Watch for For Next Time
• Health Status
Coach Rahe mentioned after the game that he does not expect Dontay Bassett to be back until next week’s games on the road at Sacramento State. Meanwhile, Zahir Porter is expected back. Will Rahe stick with the same starting lineup? That is certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.
• Starting faster
Weber’s offense looked stagnant at times in the first half and allowed NAU to keep pace for a part of the first half while the score was 22-20. The Wildcats will not make 50 percent of their threes every night. Look for an increased emphasis on scoring in the painted area Saturday. The Wildcats scored only 20 points in the paint on Thursday.
• Transition Defense
Though it was not long lasting, NAU kept close early in the first half due to a couple of wide open threes coming in transition. The threes came as a result of miscommunication, partially due to new lineups on the floor. Still, coach Rahe will surely address the issue as the Wildcats do not want to give Cam Shelton any free looks to get going in game two of this series.
• Bench Production
The bench was lacking in last week’s loss at Montana, but has stepped up in the last two wins. Scoring 20 points Thursday, the bench provided a boost offensively. They got some help on the other end as well with senior guard Kham Davis setting a tone defensively. Look for Davis to continue his contributions matching up with the opposition’s best player while he is on the court.
• Offensive Rebounding
It is difficult to rebound on the offensive end if every shot is going in. Weber State only grabbed 6 on Thursday, but the total was good for 25 percent production. In games where they gain another possession at least 20 percent of the time, the Wildcats have only lost twice. They have gone 9-2 on such occasions. Weber State may not shoot over 55 percent again Saturday, but if they continue to gain new life from offensive rebounds, they will be just fine.
Featured image courtesy Weber State Athletics