Jerrick Harding moving through defenders down the court. (Sara Parker / The Signpost)

While droves of students abandoned the Weber State University campus for winter break, the men’s and women’s basketball teams surged forward into the beginning of Big Sky Conference play.

The first game for the men during the break came on Dec. 16, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff University, which the Wildcats won 96–74. WSU ended the game with four players scoring in double digits, led by sophomore Jerrick Harding’s 30 points.

Junior Zach Braxton also made his return to the lineup in the game after missing the team’s game against BYU, scoring 14 points and collecting a team-high 7 rebounds. The loss dropped the Golden Lions to 0–12 on the season.

The Wildcats next took the court on Dec. 19, when Pepperdine University came to Ogden. Weber State won 72–67, with Harding pacing both teams in scoring, collecting 26 points.

Senior Ryan Richardson and Braxton were the only other Wildcats in double digits, scoring 18 and 14 points respectively. Senior Dusty Baker took the lead with assists in the game for the ’Cats with six, while freshman Michal Kozak collected a game-high 11 rebounds.

Brekkott Chapman leaping for two points. (Sara Parker / The Signpost)

The next time the Wildcats took the court, it was against Presentation College for their final game before conference play began. WSU won the game 88–48 at home on Dec. 22, with Harding and Richardson sharing the team’s scoring lead with 16 apiece.

Braxton also picked up 11 points, and a team-leading 10 rebounds, for his second double-double of the season. Weber State never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 17–4 lead just seven minutes into the game.

Dec. 30 marked the end of 2017 for the Wildcats and the beginning of Big Sky play, when they took on the Idaho State Bengals. WSU lost the matchup 62–60, marking their first home loss of the season.

Despite the team shooting 18.8 percent from beyond the 3-point line in the game, Harding scored 27 points with Braxton and Richardson each chipping in 10 points of their own. None of the Wildcats reached two assists, with the team only collecting four total.

This game was also the return of junior Brekkott Chapman, who has been out with injury since the Wildcats faced Utah Valley University on Dec. 6.

In the final 30 seconds of the game, Harding commit a turnover, the Bengals missed three free throws and Richardson missed a potentially game winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Zach Braxton leaping for a dunk. (Sara Parker / The Signpost)

After the loss, head coach Randy Rahe said, “As of tonight, we are not a very tough basketball team. We did not compete hard enough, we did not fight hard enough, we did not play with enough aggressiveness or energy or toughness to win that basketball game.”

The team took Rahe’s message to heart in their next game against Northern Arizona University, winning 95–55. The Wildcats 40-point margin of victory was the most for the team against a Big Sky Conference opponent since Feb. 29, 1992, when the Wildcats beat Eastern Washington University 109–67.

The Wildcats had six players score in double digits, only two of who came off the bench. Freshman Ricky Nelson was one of the reserves who scored in double digits, collecting 13 points while also leading the team with four assists. Weber State worked their way to the end of the bench in the game, using 11 different players.

As of Jan. 5, the WSU men’s team was 8–6 on the season, 1­–1 in conference play and seventh in the conference standings.

For the women, the first game of the break was on Dec. 17, when they took down the University of Portland 91–70. Redshirt senior Larryn Brooks was the team leader in scoring with 33 points, her most in a single game this season. Senior Jocelyn Adams led the Wildcats in rebounds with seven, while junior Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman’s six assists led the team in the victory.

Zach Braxton rushing through defenders for two points. (Sara Parker / The Signpost)

Weber State stayed on the road for their next game on Dec. 20 against Fresno State University of the Mountain West Conference. The ’Cats lost 81–78 to the Bulldogs in their final game before conference play.

Adams led the team in scoring with 18 and rebounds, collecting a season high 17 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Welch-Coleman also picked up eight assists — she was the only player to get more than one in the game.

The team then took the court against Idaho State in Pocatello, winning the game 76–70. Welch-Coleman led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points and with assists, collecting four dimes in the game. Adams paced the team in rebounds for the third straight game, grabbing 10 boards.

Junior Emily Drake led the team in steals, snatching four throughout the game. Senior Kailie Quinn made two 3-pointers in the game, with one coming early in the third quarter. That 3-pointer gave Quinn 1000 in her career, joining only 18 other Wildcats in the record books.

The women then played Northern Arizona on Jan. 4, losing to the Lumberjacks by a score of 76–75. The Wildcats led by 17 points with 16 minutes left before ultimately losing after the Lumberjacks made their final seven shots from the field.

Brooks led the Wildcats in scoring for the third time over winter break, scoring 21 points. She was the only player in the game to reach double digits in a single statistic. Through Jan. 5, the WSU women’s basketball team had a record of 9–4, and 1–1 in conference play.

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