by Zachary Knecht
Featured Image: Photo by Weber State Athletics
Sacramento State Weber State Tournament Recap
The #3 Weber State Wildcats survive their first tournament round, defeating the #6 Sacramento State Hornets 70-64. After an explosive first half, WSU fended off a late Hornets charge to advance to the Big Sky Semifinals.
The game ended much closer than expected after their 41-25 halftime lead, but the Wildcats live to see another day, fighting to be at the top of the Big Sky.
The Weber State starters had a successful outing against the Hornets in the Quarterfinal matchup. Three Wildcats scored 16+ points in the contest: Dillon Jones (18), Steven Verplancken Jr. (16), and KJ Cunningham (16). Jones was the main contributor to WSU’s offense, taking a game-high 19 shots. The Weber State star was well below his typical efficiency, shooting 36.8% from the field, but made a greater impact in other categories. Jones racked up for assists in the victory, stealing the ball three times in his 39 minutes.
Verplancken Jr. and Cunningham were a potent one-two punch behind their team’s leader. The duo combined for 32 points, shooting 13 of 16 from the field, including an impressive 3 of five from three. The Wildcats’ shooters were about as hot as they could be, helping to get their team over the hump against a formidable conference opponent.
Sacramento State’s duo of Callum McRae and Zach Chappell showed out but couldn’t get their team the upset. McRae had a team-high of 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, proving how dynamic of a playmaker he is on the court. He was efficient, hitting seven of 11 shots from the field. Chappell was also effective in the contest, shooting an even 50% from the field and three, adding two rebounds, three assists, and one steal to his line.
Weber State shot lights out from the field. Their dominance helped secure them as much as a 16-point lead, granting them all the buffer they needed to put away Sacramento State. The Wildcats shot 54.9% on the night while hitting 83.3% from the free-throw line. If WSU could keep the hot hand, it’s difficult to see who will stop them, especially given #1 Eastern Washington’s fall from grace to #9 Northern Arizona.
On top of the effective shooting numbers, Weber State was secure with the ball. The Wildcats only turned the ball over six times against the Hornets, forcing 15. Their ball security was paramount in the win, taking advantage of every possession they could rather than giving away freebies.
Despite leaving Monday night with the victory, there was room for improvement for the aspiring Wildcats. Their three-point percentage was down from their usual numbers, but WSU always finds a way to bounce back after a poor performance from beyond the arch, so they look to make amends in the Semifinals.
The other cause for concern was Weber State’s defense. They only allowed 64 points in the contest, but the Hornets shot 53.1% from the field and 36.8% from three, exceeding their bottom-three efficiency. The Wildcats couldn’t come by rebounds either, losing the battle 28-18. The rebounding is less concerning given the Hornets were the conference’s leader in the category, but WSU’s defense needs to find more success their next time out.
What’s to Come
Tuesday night, the Wildcats continue their tournament docket with a trip to the semifinals against the #2 Montana State Bobcats.
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|Weber State Starters||PTS||REB||AST||FG||3PT||MIN|
|Dillon Jones, F||18||5||4||7-19||1-7||39|
|Steven Verplancken Jr., G||16||1||0||7-9||1-3||37|
|KJ Cunningham, G||16||1||0||6-7||2-2||30|
|Alex Tew, C||9||4||0||4-6||0-0||26|
|Dyson Koehler, F||5||1||1||2-3||0-1||27|
|Zahir Porter, G||4||1||0||2-5||0-1||14|
|Handje Tamba, C||2||2||0||0-0||0-0||12|
|Junior Ballard, G||0||1||1||0-2||0-1||15|
|Sacramento State Starters||PTS||REB||AST||FG||3PT||MIN|
|Callum McRae, C||16||8||4||7-11||0-0||31|
|Zach Chappell, G||14||2||3||5-10||3-6||27|
|Gianni Hunt, G||6||4||3||2-3||2-3||32|
|Kiir Kiir Chol Deng, F||0||0||0||0-1||0-1||26|
|Austin Patterson, G||0||4||1||0-2||0-2||2|
|Akol Mawein, F||10||4||1||5-10||0-1||25|
|Cameron Wilbon, G||8||2||1||3-4||0-1||29|
|Quadry Adams, G||7||1||0||3-4||1-2||10|
|Hunter Marks, F||3||1||0||1-4||1-3||18|