by Dominic Ferrucci
It was just a matter of time until the Weber State Wildcats had a poor shooting night from beyond the arc. That was just the case on Thursday night with the Wildcats shooting just 3-13 from long range. This performance from deep was tied for the second lowest output all season and with only two offensive rebounds, Weber State tallied a new low in that department against Division I opponents. Sacramento State got to the three throw line 14 more times than the Wildcats. The Hornets turned the ball only nine times. That is the best total by any of the Wildcats’ conference opponents all season.
How did Weber State walk out of “The Nest” with an 82-73 victory? The simple answer can be found with their poise down the stretch. After trailing by three at the 10:50 mark in the second half, the Wildcats used an 18-5 run to take a 72-62 point lead with under three minutes remaining. The run saw four turnovers and only two made field goals as the Wildcats buckled down defensively when they needed to most.
Offensively, the Wildcats were paced by a balanced scoring attack. A total of four Weber State players found double digits in the scoring column, but sophomore Seikou Sisoho Jawara led the way with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. Sisoho Jawara has now scored in double figures in nine straight games after coming off a cold series against Southern Utah in late January. Perhaps what is most impressive about Sisoho Jawara’s game was his ability to close out the Hornets. He was scoring or assisting on eight of the last ten Wildcat points to ensure a win. He was able to turn offense into defense as well when, trailing 57-56 with just under 10 minutes to play, Sisoho Jawara stole the ball from Sacramento State guard Christian Terrell and converted on an and-one opportunity on the other end. The sequence put the Wildcats up 59-57 and, after 10 lead changes, they never trailed the rest of the way.
Backcourt counterpart Isiah Brown did not disappear quietly into the night either. After having just four points at halftime, Brown came back to finish the game with 16 points on 8-14 shooting. Despite not shooting any free throws and going 0-2 from beyond the arc, it is certainly promising to Wildcat fans that Brown was still able to contribute in a big way.
Another contribution came from Michael Kozak, who has now started his third game in a row. Kozak is making a case that he should stay in the starting lineup the rest of the way with a solid 12 points on 5-6 shooting. He racked up 5 rebounds as well. Kozak was able to convert many of his points in the paint, where the Wildcats totaled 54 points for the game. The buckets down low were able to steer Weber State to just under 70 percent shooting on two-point field goals. That is their second highest total of the season.
Yet again freshman Dillon Jones was able to make a huge contribution for the Wildcats. This time he was getting it done off the bench. Despite not starting, Jones played 32 minutes as coach Randy Rahe and staff were pleased with Jones’ play-making abilities throughout the evening. The freshman finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and a 3.0 assist to turnover ratio. He had the quickness of a guard and the size of a forward, making him a matchup nightmare for the Hornets and any other opponent the rest of the way.
Look no further than Jones’ buzzer-beating layup just before the first half horn as an example of Jones’ impact as he drove right by a Hornets defender to put the Wildcats up by six headed into the second frame. His confidence will be paramount to the Weber State success as they finish the regular season and head into Big Sky tournament play.
In addition to Jones, Dontay Bassett came off the bench in his first game back from an injury that held him out of the NAU series. Bassett was limited to just four points, but that could change in game number two as he gets back into the flow of the game.
Sophomore guard K.J. Cunningham rounded out Coach Rahe’s bench hitting 2 of the 3 three points all game. Cunningham’s 2-2 performance was a massive boost for the Weber State. He has now shot 7-11 shooting from distance in the Wildcat’s four consecutive wins.
On the other side, Sacramento State was led by senior Benny Fowler who’s 19 point, 6 rebound, and 4 assist night made the game close for most of the way. Fowler was productive despite not shooting a three-pointer all night. His 129 offensive rating score was good for his second best all season. Fowler’s typically reliable senior counterpart Ethan Esposito struggled in the first game of the series. He shot only 3-12 from the field and missed all four of his attempts from beyond the three-point line. Additionally, Esposito went just 4-9 from the charity stripe. That’s a place where he had been a reliable 74 percent on the season. William Fitzpatrick was one of three other scorers in double figures for the Hornets pouring in four buckets from downtown. Guards Christian Terrell and Zach Chappell each contributed 10 points in the scoring department.
What to Watch for Next Time
1. Three-Point Shooting
- The Wildcats were able to score 82 points despite only making three shots from downtown. Coming into the contest, Weber State ranks second behind only the number two ranked Baylor Bears in three-point production. It will be interesting to see if the Wildcats revert to their hot shooting ways on Saturday.
2. Be on Attack Mode
- Weber State only attempted 10 free throws all night in the first game of the series, despite Sacramento State getting to line 24 times. If the Wildcats shoot poorly from beyond the arc again, it will be crucial to have the chance for freebies by drawing fouls
3. Get Bassett Going
- Dontay Bassett was quiet in his first game back despite the Wildcats’ success at scoring in the paint. Building up his confidence will be crucial if Weber State wants to contend in the Big Sky tournaments. They will most likely have to go through 6’7” Eastern Washington’s Tanner Groves.
The Hornets and Wildcats will meet again at “The Nest” for an early, noon Mountain Standard Time tip-off on Saturday. This will be the second and final game in this regular season series.
(Courtesy of Weber State Athletics)