It turns out someone could handle the Dee. The Weber State University men’s basketball team lost to Utah State University on Tuesday by the score of 77-71. The Wildcats fell to 0-3 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
“We were a lot more consistent,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “Against BYU, we had our moments. Here we played better longer. That’s what game experience does. The more you play, the longer you are going to play stretches of good basketball, and the only way you can get to that point is by playing games.”
The Aggies started out red-hot, scoring on seven of their first eight field goal attempts. The Wildcats made their first two field goals, but they went on to miss four in a row. The Wildcats had some early miscues, turning the ball over multiple times to begin the game. The Aggies quickly jumped out to a 14-5 lead five minutes into the game, prompting a WSU timeout.
“They got a bunch of big guys that know how to play,” said WSU center Kyle Tresnak. “They are great on offense, good on defense. Their team as a whole is just a great team.”
After the timeout, the Wildcats settled down. Over the following eight minutes, they slowly chipped away at the Aggies’ lead, including an 11-2 run near the end of the half to give them the lead. The Wildcats turned up their defensive pressure, creating steal opportunities and generating blocked shots. WSU entered halftime with a 33-31 lead.
“When our defense got going, that’s when our offense got going,” said WSU guard Davion Berry. “Coach always says that defense leads to offense. We generated some stops, fed it inside, and that led to the outside plays as well. We just have to get stops and play solid defense, and we will let the offense take care of itself.”
USU center Jarred Shaw led all scorers in the half with 12 points. Guard Preston Medlin added nine points for the Aggies. Berry led the Wildcats with eight points. Guard Jordan Richardson added six points.
The Aggies had six offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to eight second-chance points while WSU had zero. There were seven lead changes in the first half.
“There was a span where they got three or four offensive rebounds and got the put-backs,” Tresnak said. “We can’t let them get those second-chance opportunities. That really hurt us, and that seemed to be the difference at the end of the game.”
The teams went back and forth to begin the second half. The Wildcat lead remained between three and five for the first part of the half. The Aggies retook the lead midway through the half. After the Wildcats again tied it up, the Aggies swung the momentum in their favor with an old-fashioned 3-point play from forward Spencer Butterfield.
The Aggies built a lead as the Wildcats’ defense began to have breakdowns. Multiple times in the final minutes, a Wildcat lost track of his man, leading to easy dunks and layups. The Aggies led by as many as eight in the latter parts of the second half.
The Wildcats tried to jump back into the game, but they didn’t have answers on how to stop the Aggies from responding to every bucket they made. USU made its free throws at the end to close out the 77-71 win.
Berry led all scorers with 21 points in the game. Freshman guard Jeremy Senglin added 14 points and Tresnak had 10. Shaw led USU with 20 points. Forward Kyle Davis had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Aggies. Butterfield also had 16 points, and Medlin finished with 13.
With one of their toughest opening schedules in recent history, the Wildcats continue their quest to improve rapidly and to get ahead of their Big Sky competition. The players and coaches said they don’t want it any other way.
“We want to play the teams that are going to give us the best challenge and that are going to help us become the best team that we can be before we get into the conference season,” Tresnak said. “We don’t want to go play some small schools, some weaker teams. We want the best of the best. We want to go out and get better as a team — and get some wins too.”
The Wildcats will return to action Saturday as they face San Jose State University, another Mountain West Conference opponent. Tipoff for that game will be at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.