The Weber State University men’s basketball team ended the second-longest win streak in the nation on Saturday when they knocked off the University of Texas at Arlington 72-70 in a Sears BracketBusters game.
WSU came into the matchup with a 15-0 record at home. Head Coach Randy Rahe said the team wanted to keep its perfect record intact.
“We kind of talked about that before game,” Rahe said. “They’ve won 16 in a row. We’ve won all of our games at home. Something has to give on the court. Let’s make sure it’s not us.”
To start the game, both teams looked as if they were playing with some nerves, committing turnovers early on. The game remained scoreless till Damian Lillard hit a teardrop jumper three and a half minutes into the half.
The Wildcats were helped by strong 3-point shooting from Kyle Bullinger and Gelaun Wheelwright, who each connected from deep to give WSU a five point lead six minutes into the game.
Throughout the first half, the score was close with neither team being able to establish a firm lead for much of the half.
Rahe said he enjoyed the tough, competitive play throughout the game.
“I loved the atmosphere,” Rahe said. “I loved the crowd. I loved how both teams attacked the game.
Lillard and Wheelwright brought the crowd to its feet with eight minutes left in the half. Off of a turnover, Lillard passed the ball to Wheelwright, who lobbed it back for Lillard for an easy layup to give WSU a four point lead.
The Mavericks were able to retake the lead with five minutes in the half, going up 24-22. UTA would take a three point lead into the break after a low scoring half.
For much of the first half, the Mavericks employed a full court defense, which frustrated the Wildcats, holding them to just 24 first half points.
Mahoney was strong under the hoop for WSU, pulling down 10 first half rebounds in his final regular season home game.
In the first half, WSU’s Scott Bamforth struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 1-6, but in the second half, Bamforth got hot and connected on four threes. Bamforth said throughout the half Lillard helped him keep his confidence high.
“I kept telling (Lillard), I’m going to knock them down eventually because I was so wide open,” Bamforth said. “It was frustrating, but I just stayed confident, and he just stayed confident, telling me, ‘If you’re open, shoot it.'”
To start the second half, the two teams traded threes. After UTA opened up the half, Lillard answered back with a three and a fast break pass to Bullinger, which cut the UTA lead to one.
The basket for Bullinger was his 1,000 career point. He has become the 26th player in WSU history to reach 1,000 points.
The Wildcats piled on the pressure, and when Bamforth and Bullinger connected on back-to-back threes, WSU took a five point lead.
WSU would go on a 16-1 run to start the half and build a 42-33 lead with 14:35 to go in the game.
The Mavericks refused to go away and cut the Wildcat lead to two eight minutes into the half.
Lillard received the loudest ovation of the night with 10 minutes left in the game. Wheelwright was on a fast break after a turnover and passed the ball back to Lillard, who dunked on LaMarcus Reed, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Despite the strong play by WSU in the second half, the Mavericks refused to go away, and with 6:25 left in the game, UTA had cut the lead to seven points.
The Mavericks continued to fight back and were within two points with nine seconds remaining. UTA had a chance to win following a Wildcat turnover on the last play of the game, but the shot was well wide of the hoop, and WSU went on to win its 22nd game of the season.
WSU will now head to Colorado where it will face the University of Northern Colorado on Thursday in its second to last game of the regular season.