After a hard-fought battle on the court, the Weber State University men’s basketball team fell to the No. 2 seed Xavier Musketeers 71–53 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.
Both teams came out ready to fight, but Xavier drew first blood by winning the toss and scoring the first point of the game.
While the Wildcats went scoreless for seven of the first 10 minutes of play, Xavier took a 21–6 lead over WSU.
“(Xavier) is a physical team. … I didn’t feel like they out-physicaled us out of our game. I didn’t think we backed away from that at all,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “They’ve got a great team. They have all the ingredients to be special, and that’s why they are special. And the part of it is they’re a physical, tough team.”
Senior Joel Bolomboy scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 26th double-double of the season and his 75th double-double of his career. Although Bolomboy’s last game at WSU didn’t end the way he had hoped it would, he had nothing negative to say.
“It’s not a good feeling to lose. But looking back, it’s been a great career,” Bolomboy said after the game. “I’ve enjoyed everything. To be able to be in this position, to be at the NCAA Tournament twice out of my four years — that’s really good.”
Contributing to Weber’s 53 points was freshman McKay Cannon with 10 points, five assists and four crucial steals. For Cannon, this marks the first of what he hopes to be many experiences competing on a national stage.
“It’s been great just to be with my teammates,” said Cannon. “I love my teammates, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience being out here. It’s just been fun. I just wish it would have gone the other way, obviously, but that’s what happens.”
Junior Jeremy Senglin only put up seven points, though he usually averages 18.2 per game. This was only the sixth game this season Senglin scored in single digits.
“They weren’t going to let Jeremy breathe. … They were everywhere he went,” said Rahe. “If his defender was a little late, they jumped somebody else out at him. They weren’t going to let Jeremy beat them, and they did a great job on him.”
The Wildcats never once took the lead and were down 23–34 at the half. WSU was only shooting 27 percent, while Xavier was shooting 40 percent. At the half, the ’Cats were also out-rebounded, 17–29.
Weber State’s offense came out on fire in the second half, cutting the deficit down to just seven points with a little under 10 minutes to play.
The Wildcats took many long shots, but only four of the 21 3-pointers fell.
“We usually shoot a lot of threes,” said junior Richaud Gittens. “The long shot is part of our game. When they fall, it’s great. When they don’t … that’s just the way it goes. They just didn’t fall tonight.”
Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t get the stops they needed, allowing Xavier to score eight unanswered points in less than four minutes.
WSU, unable to score in the last two minutes, gave up another five points and allowed the Musketeers to come out on top, 71–53.
Coach Rahe concluded the night by reiterating that losing was never in the game plan.
“I just told these guys, remember what this (loss) feels like because we’re going to get back here, and we’re going to find a way to win a game. … I really believe that.”
The Wildcats concluded their season with a record of 26–9 and three championship titles, including the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament, the Big Sky regular season and the Big Sky Championship Tournament.
“I don’t know how many (teams) in the country can say that,” said Rahe. “They’ve had one hell of a year. Take tonight out of it, they’ve had one hell of a season, and they’ve earned every bit of it.”