After facing a 12-point deficit in the first half of the game, the Weber State University men’s basketball team rallied to claw past Eastern Washington University 80–72 in the Big Sky Conference Championship semifinals in Reno, Nevada.
“I am really proud of these guys,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “That was a toughness game. We got down early. They were the more aggressive team and knocked us down on our heels a little bit. I think a lesser team would have given into it, but these guys kept hanging.”
The Wildcats had five players in double figures, beginning with senior Jeremy Senglin who led for Weber State with 22 points and five steals.
Senglin became the second player in Weber State history and fourth in Big Sky Conference history to reach a career 2,000 points. He is just 16 points shy of breaking Bruce Collins’ record to become the Weber State all-time career scorer.
Following Senglin was junior Dusty Baker, who knocked down 17 points, shooting 5-of-6 from inside the paint and 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
“I have approached this tournament being aggressive,” Baker said. “When I am called upon, I’m trying to shoot threes. I’m trying to score. I’m trying to make plays for other teammates. We are going to win as a team.”
Junior Ryan Richardson had 14 points, and sophomore Zach Braxton and freshman Jerrick Harding had 10 apiece.
Eastern Washington took control of the game right from the tipoff, jumping out to a 14–2 lead over WSU. Weber State fought, going on a 10–4, cutting the deficit to seven with under 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Defense made some important stops, and offense starting clicking for the Wildcats as they tied things up 34 all going into halftime.
“We stayed together,” Senglin said. “We didn’t let the early score phase us. We saw we were down, but as a team we believed we could come back.”
Weber State took their first lead of the game when Baker knocked down a layup, putting WSU on top 40–38.
From then, the lead changed seven times and was tied 10 times.
WSU pulled away in the last three minutes as the Eagles went cold. Weber State sealed the deal with an 80–72 win over Eastern Washington and will return to the championship game to defend their title.
“Once we got into the flow of the game, we were able to hang with it,” Rahe said. “We found a little rhythm offensively. We got a couple stops. Credit goes to these guys.”
The championship game will be a rematch of the 2014 Big Sky Championship game where Weber State defeated the University of North Dakota in Ogden.
The Wildcats were defeated by UND twice in the regular season.
“We are excited about the challenge,” Rahe said of the championship match up. “(North Dakota) is really good and that is the reason they won the league. They are very talented. They’ve got good size, good shooters and good athleticism.”
Senglin has confidence in his team’s ability heading into the championship game.
“We believe we can win it,” Senglin said. “That’s the first thing you have to do with anything in life is believe. No matter what seed we were, we knew that we could come in and win it no matter who we played.”
The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. MT at the Reno Events Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU.