Big Sky Conference play is officially halfway gone for the Weber State University men’s basketball team. Before tonight’s game, the Wildcats were 8-2, with both losses having come on the road.
Of those 10 games, six have been decided by less than 10 points. The Wildcats are 5-1 in such games, their only loss having come last Thursday night on a buzzer-beater. Having been in so many close games, head coach Randy Rahe has just accepted that this year, most games will be a grind.
“It’s kind of the nature of our team,” Rahe said. “We’ve got to defend, we’ve got to rebound. Offensively, we have some good nights and some nights we are challenged. We are playing a lot of younger guys with a lot of minutes together. We got to fight and grind, and our guys have done a great job of it.”
With all of these games decided in the final minutes, the Wildcats never feel like they can’t come back and win the game.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had teams that are never really out of it,” said WSU senior Kyle Tresnak. “With the new guys we have, we had to learn how to do that. In the beginning of the season, we didn’t totally have it, but once conference started, you can definitely see that we’ve learned to grind it out.”
Three of the first five games of the non-conference season for WSU were decided by nine points or less. The Wildcats lost all three of those games to in-state teams — Brigham Young University, Utah State University and Utah Valley University.
“When you play high-level competition and you play hard and find a way to hang in there in some of those tough games, it comes back to you when you are in league play,” Rahe said. “The more you get in those situations, the more comfortable you are with being in them.”
Players agreed that the higher level of competition has assisted them in close games this season.
“I think it helped a lot to have a tougher schedule in the beginning,” said WSU sophomore Joel Bolomboy. “It helped us out, because we played a lot of good teams.”
Tresnak agreed the tough schedule helped prepare the Wildcats for an equally difficult conference season.
“It kind of just gave us a look at what other conferences were like,” he said. “We played against some tough teams from different conferences. You can go and just beat up smaller teams and feel good about yourselves, but you really learn who you are and what you need to work on when you play against good-quality opponents.”
One of the reasons for WSU’s recent success has been the play of senior guard Davion Berry. Berry has averaged 25.8 points and six rebounds over the last three weeks.
“I had to (take it to another level),” Berry said. “We were in a funk. I have to gather the troops and I have to take the lead. They are going to follow what I do. If I am out there pouting, they are out there pouting. But if I am out there with a great look on my face and ready to take the other team out, the troops are going to follow.”
Berry said he wants to take advantage of every opportunity in his final season at WSU.
“I want to give this team all I have,” he said. “I only have a couple games left. These are my last games coming down in my college career. I just want to sell out to my teammates. They deserve my best every night. I am a leader on this team, and that is what I’ve got to do.”