It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end, the Weber State University men’s basketball team got its third win of the year with an 80-72 win against the University of California Irvine.
WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe said the team was able to come together and get the win despite not playing their best game of the season.
“We didn’t play one of our best games,” Rahe said, “but we found a way to win. We didn’t panic, and our guys made plays when they needed to. . . . Our guys played tough; their guys played tough; it was like a fist fight.”
The Anteaters jumped out to an early lead, but after the first few minutes, the Wildcats found their footing and tied the game at eight, thanks to an inside shot by Frank Otis early in the first half. WSU took their first lead a few minutes later with a three from Damian Lillard to make it 11-10.
After the ’Cats took the lead, the team continued its streak of good shooting, hitting three consecutive three-point shots WSU jumped out to a 17-10 lead.
UCI managed to keep the score close during much of the first half, with WSU’s largest lead for much of the half was just seven points, and at one point were within just four points.
At the half, The Wildcats had a 37-32 lead over the Anteaters. Lillard was the top scorer for WSU in the first half with 13 points. The ’Cats struggled with shooting in the first half, only shooting 36 percent in the half. WSU also was only able to convert five out of 14 three-point shots.
In the second half, the Wildcats came out strong with Kyle Tresnak scoring an early basket inside. Tresnak caught the ball in the paint and beat his defender to smoothly lay the ball in.
UCI continued to fight back and was able to tie the score at 39 when Collin Wood hit a free throw with just over 17 minutes left in the game. Tresnak answered back again to retake the lead for WSU.
In the game, the Wildcats struggled controlling the ball, committing seven turnovers halfway through the second half.
Early in the second half, UIC had a chance to take the lead, driving down the court after a turnover, but Otis came up with a big block for the Wildcats.
The Anteaters took their first lead with 12 minutes left going up 46-44. UIC would extend its lead, but Lillard answered back with a three to tie the game at 51 points.
With four minutes left, WSU took a four-point lead thanks to a shot by Scott Bamforth. In the last four minutes of the game, Bamforth was crucial to the Wildcats. Following his two-point shot, he hit a wide-open three to extend the WSU lead to eight points.
Bamforth said he felt the team played a good game and got an important win for the team.
“I think tonight was a great win for us as a team,” Bamforth said. “We came together as a team and pulled out a win.”
Lillard hit another three with 1:30 left to seal the win for WSU. The Wildcats wrapped up an 80-72 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season. Rahe said Lillard’s contribution was crucial to the win.
“I think it was his best game,” Rahe said. “Damian has really learned to do other things to help the team besides score. We needed him to do other things defensively, and he did that.”