by Dominic Ferrucci
There was not a flashy, lights out shooting performance from the Weber State Wildcats that would rival that of Thursday’s output, but Randy Rahe’s squad controlled the whole way in a 74-52 win over NAU on Saturday. The Wildcats continued their winning ways with three in a row, and 11 of the last 13 chalked in the win column. Weber State has now won all 10 games at the Dee Events Center this year. It’s a place where they managed just an 8-6 record a season ago.
The Wildcats’ average margin of victory against Division I opponents in Ogden is now nearly 17 points. This is following this series with NAU which saw two impressive wins by more than 20 points. The season may be starting to remind some folks of the 2015-2016 campaign which included an impressive 13-1 record at home and an NCAA tournament appearance. The way the Wildcats are playing, a trip to the big dance could be in the cards in the coming weeks.
The Wildcats were paced yet again by senior Isiah Brown. His 15 points led all Weber State scorers. Brown ranks in the top five in two-point field goal percentage at 64 percent in Big Sky play. He is also ninth overall in offensive rating for players in the conference. He is certainly making a run for player of the year in the league, but his teammates have been contributing as well. Saturday was no different. The Wildcats had four other players score in double figures in this game. Brown’s backcourt counterpart, Seikou Sisoho Jawara, added 11 points on 5-11 shooting.
Perhaps the most impressive stat from the Weber State star guards can be found in their 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in Saturday’s win. Brown and Sisoho Jawara had 10 assists between the two of them, and their poise helped the Wildcats control the game for all 40 minutes. Weber State scoring was also aided by the return of Zahir Porter to the lineup. Porter did not start, yet he poured in three shots from downtown in 25 minutes off the bench. Porter’s 13 points marked his seventh time in eight games scoring in double digits. He’s now made at least three shots beyond the arc in five games this season.
Porter’s spot in the starting lineup was taken once again by Dillon Jones. The freshman from South Carolina was not effective shooting the basketball for the second straight game of the series, but he continued to make his presence known in other areas. Jones had a stat-stuffing performance with eight rebounds, three assists and five steals. He added a 6-6 outing from the free throw line to help him score in double digits, where he now shoots 73 percent on the year. The Wildcats as a team are now shooting 79 percent from the charity stripe, something that will help in close games. Fortunately, their free throw shooting skills have not needed to be showcased the last two games.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 13-4 lead today, something we wanted to keep an eye out for coming into this one after not doing so on Thursday. NAU used a 7-0 run to creep back into the game after that, however, pulling within two behind five Luke Avdalovic points. Avdalovic led all scorers with 16 points for the Lumberjacks on 6-12 shooting. NAU was able to keep it close for much of the first half trailing by just four points at the under-4 media timeout. After that point, however, it was all Wildcats. Zahir Porter nailed a three-pointer after a defensive stop and the Wildcats stayed solid for another couple of possessions to take a 32-23 lead headed into the locker-room. A quick five points from Cody Carlson, whose ten points and eight rebounds nearly got him his second straight double-double, increasing the Weber State lead to 41-25. The Lumberjacks did not pull within 13 points after that, and Weber State nearly extended the lead to 30 with just under four minutes to go. The margin was aided by a 13-0 that featured five straight missed shots and three turnovers by NAU. An 8-2 run to close the game made the final result look a bit more presentable for the Lumberjacks.
Weber State was able to hold Lumberjacks star Cam Shelton to just five points on three shot attempts and held all starters outside of Avdalovic under 20 points combined. The five points were the first time Shelton had not scored in double figures all season. Weber State also managed to limit NAU to just two offensive rebounds and zero second chance points in a great defensive effort. The Wildcats out-rebounded NAU 37-25 for the game. Weber State held NAU to just 4-16 shooting from behind the arc and forced 13 turnovers scoring 16 points on such occasions.
Following decisive sweeps by Eastern Washington and Southern Utah, the Wildcats remain in third place in the conference headed into next week’s series against Sacramento St. Weber will tip off at 6pm local time Thursday to begin the series with the Hornets and the two will conclude their series with a noon game on Saturday. The Wildcats will look to avenge a Big Sky tournament loss to Sacramento St. that ended their season last year.
Featured image courtesy NAU Athletics