On a snowy Thursday, children from surrounding elementary schools packed the Dee Events Center in support of the Weber State University women’s basketball team as part of the seventh annual Field Trip Day.
The Wildcats faced off against the University of Northern Colorado, with both teams searching for their first Big Sky win of the year. The Bears didn’t leave empty-handed, as they scored enough to get the win, 68-49.
The loss brought the Wildcats’ record to 4-8, 0-3 in the Big Sky, while the Bears improved to 7-6, 1-3.
Both teams came slowly out of the gate, as neither scored more than 10 points until halfway through the first half. The Bears started to separate themselves from the Wildcats as Molly Duehn found her stroke from the outside.
Down 14-7, the Wildcats found a way to get to the basket and get some open shots. A 3-pointer from Desiree Ramos brought the Wildcats within three, but that was the closest they got. They went the last 6:18 of the first half without making a basket, which capped off a half where they shot 12.5 percent from the field.
The second half started out even slower than the first, as both teams once again weren’t able to get going early on. The players made four field goals in the first five minutes, but the Wildcats came out with a different mojo in the second half. Even after being down by 20 or more for most of the half, they were still attacking the basket and forcing the Bears to make mistakes.
The Wildcats were able to get to the free-throw line and make the most of their opportunities, as Amanda Hughes and Deeshyra Thomas combined for 16 attempts in the second half alone. But that wasn’t enough to get the team back into the game; the early deficit was too much to overcome.
“We have to make shots. When we are aggressive to the basket, good things happen,” said WSU head coach Bethann Ord. “You can’t shoot 20 percent and expect to win. You need to make baskets to keep yourself in the game. I was proud of the girls in the fact that they didn’t give up. Usually when you aren’t making shots, it’s easy to get down on yourself.”
While the Bears walked away with a win, the Wildcats were able to stop one of the most prolific scorers this side of the Rockies. The Bears’ Stephanie Lee came into the game leading the conference in scoring with 20.9 points per game, but the Wildcats were able to find a way to frustrate her, and she saw most of the game from the bench. She picked up two early fouls in the first and second halves, which limited her minutes, and she finished the game with only three points.
“We did a terrific job on defense. They really stepped it up,” Ord said. “We held their two players, with (Zakiyyah) Shahid-Martin playing a lot on Lee; they both had three points. Getting her in early foul trouble really got her out of the groove. You can’t hold those two to only three points each and not make shots while expecting to win.”
Thomas led the Wildcats with 16 points, shooting an impressive 80 percent from the free-throw line coming off the bench. Hughes once again missed a double-double, as she had 10 points and nine rebounds, having played a majority of the game in foul trouble. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Bears 48-45, with Shahid-Martin pulling down 10 rebounds by herself.
“Defensively, I felt that we played really well, but offensively we couldn’t buy a bucket,” Hughes said. “Me getting to the free throw was based off me being aggressive and getting to the hoop.”
The Wildcats will now head on the road to take on Southern Utah University on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.