by Zachary Knecht
Featured Image: Photo by Weber State Athletics
Weber State Basketball Preview
The Weber State Wildcats (7-9) head to Montana to face the Grizzlies (8-8) in their first road conference game. The ‘Cats have been playing solid, competitive basketball as of late, and want to take down Montana to continue to make noise in the conference.
The ‘Cats come into play with a 2-1 conference record to the 2-2 from Montana, making this an important game for either team to stay in contention for the Big Sky title. ESPN Analytics has Montana as a 74.9% favorite, but Weber State will be up for the challenge coming into Thursday’s contest.
Back on the Road
Weber State’s matchup against Montana will be a true test for the Wildcats as they head back on the road where they have struggled mightily on the year (2-5). Their most recent road stretch was a success though, as they left 2-1 against a few tough opponents, so they will shoot to replicate this result.
The shooting for this ‘Cats offense was what propelled them in their successful road stint. Though they struggled to find their groove in their last game at home against Idaho State, another scoring outburst would be timely for a Weber State rebound performance.
Offense Bounces Back
This offense has had stints of hot and cold all season. Before their 57-point performance against Idaho State, the Wildcats were cruising with two 75-point-plus performances against conference opponents.
We have seen this offense bounce back before too, posting an 81-point outburst after being held to 57 points against BYU just a few weeks ago, so we know what this team is capable of. It speaks volumes to the coaching staff and the players, as they have the ability to right the ship and get back on track at the flip of a dime.
Weber State has posted 67.4 PPG on the season to the 70.1 PPG of the Grizzlies. This difference can mainly be accredited to Montana and its shooting efficiency, shooting 45.3% from the field and 36% from three. The Wildcats are short of that mark, converting 44.1% from the field and 32.8% from three.
Dillon Jones and Steven Verplancken Jr. have been the two leaders of this Wildcat offense with their 14.7 PPG and 12.3 PPG, respectively. Junior Ballard and Alex Tew have been dependable this season as scorers as well, but not as consistently as the top Grizzly producers.
Josh Bannan has been the man in Montana, dominating the floor with 16.9 PPG. Three other players have eclipsed the double-digit point mark on the season with 11+ points per night. Aanen Moody has been the second option (14.2), with Dischon Thomas (11.9) and Brandon Whitney (11.2) being vital factors in the game plan.
Defense Steps Up
This Weber State defense has been anything but a pushover this season, ranking second in the Big Sky with 68.3 points allowed per game. The defensive front needs to step up in such an important game and stifle Montana’s scoring front. The Grizzlies’ offense only ranks eighth in the Big Sky despite surpassing the 70-point mark per game, but they are a dangerous bunch, especially at home, where they hold a 5-2 record.
Conference games will always be gritty and competitive, but things get taken a step further when going on the road and leaving with a win in their building. This Wildcat team is resilient and shouldn’t be counted out of any game.
The Wildcats will head to the Dahlberg Arena at 7 pm MST to take on the Grizzlies in a tough conference matchup.