After a disheartening 19-point loss on the road to the University of Northern Colorado a month ago, the Weber State University men’s basketball team got payback on its home floor. The Wildcats defeated the Bears 79-65 on Saturday.
“Our guys were excited to play them,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “Any time you get your butt kicked, you can’t wait to play that team (again). We got embarrassed over there. Any time that happens, you want another crack at them. (UNC is) obviously one of the best teams in our league. That definitely gets the juices flowing a little bit.”
The Wildcats looked to establish an inside presence early in the game, like they did against the University of North Dakota. The Wildcats had four early buckets in the paint. WSU jumped out to an early 14-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
“We came out hungry,” said WSU freshman Jeremy Senglin. “We didn’t forget what happened last time. We just wanted to put it on them.”
The Bears were ice cold to start the game. Many of their shots from outside were off the mark. UNC missed seven of its first eight shots.
The Bears continued to attack, and they finally got their shots to fall, going on a 13-4 run to climb to back to within three midway through the half.
Both teams traded buckets for several minutes before the Bears took their first lead with six minutes left in the first half. The lead changed hands multiple times in the final minutes.
The Wildcats made a late run off of the sharp shooting of Senglin, who made two late 3-pointers to give the Wildcats a six-point lead with less than three minutes left in the half. The Wildcats took a 39-32 lead into halftime.
“(Senglin has) looked very confident shooting the ball,” Rahe said. “He’s been that way the last two or three weeks. He’s a lot more comfortable, he’s not thinking as much and he’s getting into some kind of rhythm. Every shot he took tonight, he jumped up there with confidence.”
UNC senior Tate Unruh led all scorers with 13 points in the first half. Freshman Jordan Wilson added six points and three rebounds.
The Wildcats spread the ball around. All five starters had at least four points in the game. Senglin finished the half with nine points. Senior Jordan Richardson added seven points and three boards for WSU. The Wildcats ended the game with 19 assists on 24 field goals.
“We pride ourselves on getting each other shots on each and every possession,” Richardson said. “Nineteen assists on 24 shots is great. That’s how we got that big lead in the first half and in the second half. It worked out well for us.”
The Wildcats pushed their lead to double digits on early 3-pointers from Senglin and Richardson. Three minutes into the second half, the Wildcats owned a 15-point lead.
The Wildcats pushed their lead to 18 with 13 minutes to go in the half. The Wildcats moved the ball well inside the paint, seeming to always find the open man on double teams.
UNC brought the Wildcats’ lead back down to 12 before WSU pushed it back up to 19 with nine minutes left in the game.
The Bears began to make a push late in the game, cutting the lead down to 12 points with three minutes left. But the Wildcats matched the Bears down the stretch and left with a 14-point win.
Unruh led all scorers with 18 points on 7-13 shooting. Both Senglin and Davion Berry had 15 for the Wildcats. Richardson added 14 points and seven rebounds. Senglin and Richardson finished a combined 9-13 from downtown.
Rahe commented after the last game against UNC that it looked like “men against boys playing.” He said he saw a difference in his team this time around.
“I knew we would get better after that game we played over there,” he said. “We still weren’t playing great. Over the last four weeks since we played them last, our team has continually gotten better. We’ve caught up to them a little bit. We’ve got a pretty good basketball team.”
The Wildcats will now head to Cedar City to face Southern Utah University on Thursday. That will begin a four-game road trip for the Wildcats. Their next home game will be Feb. 27.