Coming out of the Thanksgiving break, the Weber State University men’s basketball had a win to be thankful for. The Wildcats defeated San Jose State University on Saturday by the score of 72-55, ending the game on a 30-10 run.
“It felt really good to get the first win,” said WSU freshman Richaud Gittens. “I know we lost a few games, but we didn’t let that keep us away from our main goal, which is just keep working hard every day and win our next game.”
Continuing his hot hand from last Tuesday’s game, WSU senior Davion Berry started out the game with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving the Wildcats a quick 6-2 lead. Junior Royce Williams added two of his own as the Wildcats jumped out to a quick 19-8 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“I thought Dev played like a senior tonight,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “When we needed something to happen, he created it for us. He hit a couple big shots, he was very confident, and I think he sensed that he needed to step up and make a play or two.”
The Wildcats started out red-hot from 3-point range, hitting five of their first eight. Meanwhile, the Spartans were ice-cold, hitting just 4-14 from the field.
The game was back and forth from the 10-minute mark on. The Wildcats maintained their lead from between eight and 12 points.
In the final two minutes of the game, the Wildcats were aggressive, attacking the basket on every possession and drawing fouls. The Spartans were equally aggressive, drawing eight fouls in the first half. The score at halftime was 30-22 in favor of WSU.
The Wildcats were led by senior guard Jordan Richardson, who had seven points in the first half. Williams and Berry had six each. Berry added four assists.
Spartan junior Jaleel Williams led all scorers with eight points and four rebounds. Senior forward Chris Cunningham added six points and four boards.
WSU shot 43 percent from the field in the first half and 50 percent from downtown. SJSU shot just 32 percent in the first half. However, the Spartans were aided with eight offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
The Wildcats struggled from the foul line early in the second half, making five in 13 attempts. That allowed the Spartans to climb back into the game. On two consecutive 3-point baskets, the Spartans cut the lead to just two points, 40-38.
“We let our defense slip in the second half,” Berry said. “They got some threes off that they shouldn’t have got off. We just wanted to lock down on the defensive end and push on the other end.”
After a field goal to go up four, the Wildcats committed a foul on a 3-point attempt that went in. The free throw tied the game at 42. The Spartans took their first lead since the first possession of the game on the next possession. The Wildcats responded with a three of their own to tie the game at 45.
“Stuff is going to happen in games,” Gittens said. “You are going to get down. If they are going to go on runs, they are going to go on runs. At that point in time, we just told each other that we had to stick together and fight through it and just get past it.”
The Spartans got into early foul trouble, giving the Wildcats several opportunities to get free points. The Wildcats finally got one to fall and retook the lead. The Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to regain a seven-point lead. That prompted an SJSU timeout. The Spartans began full-court press in the final three minutes, but the Wildcats split it easily, getting two huge slam dunks by sophomore Joel Bolomboy.
The Wildcats began hitting their free throws in the latter parts of the half, bringing their lead back to double digits. The Wildcats eventually pushed their lead to as many as 17. The final score was 72-55.
Berry led all players with 20 points and six assists. Gittens added 10 points for a career high. SJSU freshman Rashad Muhammad had 17 points for the Spartans.
“We responded to their run, which is very important,” Rahe said. “You have to be a team that does that. Getting that first one is always really difficult. I thought we had some good contributions from a lot of people tonight, especially our bench. I was really proud of them.”
The Wildcats will now go on the road as they travel to Texas on Saturday to face the University of Texas at Arlington. They will return home on Dec. 17 to face St. Katherine College at 7 p.m.