by Dominic Ferrucci
On a night where seemingly nothing went well for Weber State, the Wildcats came up with a win thanks to a dramatic finish. The calendar has flipped to March, the games mean more, and down the stretch the Wildcats made the plays to keep their undefeated record at home and win streak intact. They escaped with a 60-59 win over Northern Colorado.
The game was ugly. In an interview after the game head coach Randy Rahe commented said it did not look like our team whatsoever. Yet, a win is a win and the grit of this Wildcat squad was on full display Thursday night. In a game that saw eight ties, seven lead changes and a five point deficit with four minutes remaining, Weber State dug deep and showed off their experience. They knew that the stakes were high and a win would be imperative. Thursday night’s game marked the second time all season that the Wildcats have made just one three-point attempt as they went 1-10 from deep. The win was also the second lowest offensive efficiency and the second lowest effective field goal percentage of the season. That explains Rahe’s comments post-game. And still, the Wildcats squeaked out their sixth straight win for the season and have now won 14 of the last 16 contests.
The game started slow, but the Wildcats managed to lead 6-4 at the first media timeout despite a stretch that saw three turnovers on the first three opening possessions for Weber State. Northern Colorado pulled ahead 12-6 after an 8-0 surge, but the Wildcats quickly responded with a 10-0 run of their own. It appeared like Weber State would potentially look like themselves when they made eight of nine field goals for a period in the first half. However, turnovers plagued the Wildcats over that span and they only had a 26-23 advantage to show for it. After the 5:24 mark in the first half, each team just managed to score four points. Rahe’s squad entered the locker room leading 30-27. In the first frame, the Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field and a perfect 4-4 from the line, but they were an ice cold 0-5 from three. It was a trend that continued throughout the game.
In the second half, the sloppy play continued with four combined turnovers in the first two minutes of play. Weber State held a four point advantage at the second media timeout of the half, but a scoreless drought lasting over five minutes allowed Northern Colorado to take a 51-46 lead. This was thanks in large part to guards Bodie Hume and Daylen Kountz. They connected on deep balls. Freshman standout Dillon Jones finally ended the drought at the line for the Wildcats. He then attacked the rim for a layup to cut the Bears lead to one with just under five and half minutes to go.
Jones was sensational all night for Weber State and led all scorers with 18 points on 7-10 shooting. Jones, the lone freshman on this season’s Wildcat squad, stepped up all night and added nine rebounds as well. Jones once again came off the bench for Randy Rahe. He accounted for almost all the bench point production. The Columbia, South Carolina product has now shot 15-20 from the field in the last three games. He has also racked up 29 rebounds in that span.
Dillon Jones is now the seventh Weber State player to lead the team in scoring for a game. His contribution came at a time where they needed it most. Outside of Isiah Brown’s double digit outing, no other Wildcat scored over eight points. The starters for Weber State, excluding Brown, shot a lowly 8-25. That included a performance from Zahir Porter that saw four turnovers, but zero points.
After the Wildcats trimmed the deficit to one, the Bears pulled back ahead by five points. After two offensive rebounds on one possession, Northern Colorado seemed to be in control with four minutes remaining. The Wildcats then mustered a stop and Cody Carlson scored five straight points. His lone Wildcat three pointer on the night squared them up with UNC less than a minute later.
The teams traded free throws before Kur Jockuch, who led the Bears in scoring with 15, made two free throws to put Northern Colorado up by two with 17 ticks left on the clock. Unshaken, senior guard Isiah Brown again showed incredible poise and drove to the hoop. He took the bump and got to the line for two freebies of his own. That tied the score at 59. The foul was whistled on Daylen Kountz, who played a great game outside of the last 10 seconds and change. Junior Matt Johnson attempted to win the game for the Bears with a pull up jumper, but his shot clanked off the rim and into the hands of senior Michael Kozak, seemingly sealing the deal to send the game to overtime. However, Northern Colorado’s Kountz was presumably unaware that the game was tied at that point and intentionally fouled Kozak sending him to the line for two. Kozak canned the first and missed the second on purpose to give Weber State the 60-59 win in crazy fashion to wrap up the second to last game of the regular season.
The Bears’ trio of Hume, Kountz and Jockuch combined for 40 of the team’s 59 points, but it was not enough. Now at 6-8 in conference, Northern Colorado sits at the eighth seed in the Big Sky. Weber State is currently second in the standings after Eastern Washington’s win streak was snapped at the hands of the Bengals of Idaho State on Wednesday. Those two teams will conclude the regular season tonight, while Weber State and top seeded Southern Utah will finish Saturday. The Wildcats could still win the conference title with a win and a SUU loss. Rahe’s team must focus on what they can control. That means that they play a better game Saturday when they meet Northern Colorado once again to conclude the regular season.
What to Watch For Next Time
1. Keep Attacking
- Once again, the three point shooting was not up to par for the Wildcats where they are a combined 9-40 across the last three games. All three games have been won thanks in large part to scoring in the paint. That is where 38 of the Wildcats’ 60 points came from on Thursday. This must continue in the second game of the series.
2. Limit Second Chance Points
- Northern Colorado had nine offensive rebounds on Thursday, but managed just four points. Had the Bears converted on those second chances, Weber State would most likely be sitting here today with a loss. The Wildcats must do a better job in the rebounding department, finishing possessions, and limiting the Bears to only one shot.
3. Sending the Seniors Out
- Saturday will be the last home game for a couple Wildcats including leading scorer Isiah Brown. The team must rally around the veteran players to finish a solid regular season and keep moving forward as they head to Boise next week for the Big Sky tournament.
Featured image courtesy of Weber State Athletics