by Zachary Knecht
Featured Image: Photo by Weber State Athletics
Northern AZ Weber State Preview
The Weber State Wildcats close the regular season at home against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks Monday. The Wildcats find themselves on a two-game skid entering play, with a battle against the conference’s top offense on the docket.
Weber State (6-23) is locked in as the tenth seed in the Big Sky (2-15), but a big win Monday would go a long way for the Big Sky Tournament. The Lumberjacks (18-12) could use the conference win (12-5) as a win at Weber State, and Sacramento State’s loss would bump them up to the two-seed.
The New Year’s Eve duel between the Wildcats and Lumberjacks ended with an 82-68 Northern AZ victory. The Lumberjacks proved why they are the Big Sky’s top-scoring team (74.3 PPG), getting everyone involved in the offense at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.
Despite the score, Weber State struggled offensively against Northern AZ. They shot 36.0% from the field and 23.1% from three. They were dominated as they were outrebounded 43-30 and turned the ball over 17 times. The reason this game looks closer than it was: free throws. The Wildcats were at the line 36 times in the contest, converting 29 of their attempts. Daryn Hickok’s 28-point game was greatly aided by her 16-19 free-throw shooting, having herself a productive night, adding seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals to her resume. Jadyn Matthews produced well behind her, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds for a double-double.
The Lumberjacks were led by Montana Oltrogge and her 19-point, 12-rebound double-double. She wasn’t the only one to get in on the fun, though with four other Northern AZ players who scored double-digits against Weber State’s defense. They also found themselves at the line often throughout the contest, hitting 30 of their 35 free throws. Against a team like Northern AZ that will outmuscle you in the paint (41.7 RPG), getting second chances from their aggressive rebounding and giving them more free opportunities from the line will only spell doom as a result.
Who to Watch
For Weber State, watch for Matthews and her performance. In the absence of Daryn Hickok, she has been the leader of this team. The star forward struggled in their Saturday contest, but she looks to bounce back in a big way against the conference’s worst defense. As the team’s rebounding leader, she also aims to contend with the Lumberjacks in the paint and take away opportunities from the sixth most efficient team from the field in the Big Sky.
Oltrogge had the Wildcats’ number last time out, and she looks to repeat the effort. While Northern AZ has great depth in their offense, expect this to be a battle between the two star forwards on either side: Matthews versus Oltrogge. Weber State doesn’t have the depth that the Lumberjacks have, so winning this matchup is paramount in their final home effort.
Win or lose, the only thing that matters is leaving Monday feeling like you have more answers and fewer questions. After every game, Weber State has gone back to the drawing board and put their best foot forward in their next time out, but they won’t have that luxury soon. Their next game will be a do-or-die tournament game, so they need to find their identity and a rhythm sooner rather than later.
The Wildcats host the Lumberjacks at 6 pm MST at the Dee Events Center.
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