For the second straight year, the Weber State University men’s basketball team went south to Salt Lake City for the Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena. For the second straight year, the Wildcats were sent packing back to Ogden with a defeat.

‘Cats push through the defenders in an attempt to put points on the board. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

The Utah State University Aggies handed WSU a 76–67 defeat on Dec. 8.

Junior guard Cody John led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points, one of four starters who reached double digits in scoring. Freshman Caleb Nero, senior Zach Braxton and senior Brekkot Chapman scored 15, 14 and 11, respectively.

Harding moves the ball to the outside as he is swamped by three defenders. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

Wildcats head coach Randy Rahe said, “I was disappointed in our first half, that’s the only thing. I didn’t think we had the energy that we were looking for. Against a really good Utah State team that has a bunch of veterans, you better have that energy and juice.”

Weber State never led in the game, as the Aggies scored the first nine points. Their first points came five minutes in, when Chapman connected from beyond the arc.

Utah State led by as many as 18 points in the first half. An 11–4 spurt by WSU cut the deficit to 39–27 at halftime, keyed by six points from Braxton.

“It’s a great tournament they have set up here,” Braxton said. “Playing in an NBA arena is always great. Playing against in-state schools is always fun, and I’m really glad we got the opportunity.”

Zach Braxton grapples with a defender as he attempts a layup. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

After four quick WSU points to open the second half, USU attempted to blow the doors off. The Aggies went ahead 57–40, an almost insurmountable lead, with 8:39 to play.

The ‘Cats were down, but not out—they went on a 13–2 run in the next three minutes of play. Nero scored eight of the 13 points, including two three-pointers.

“It was great to see,” Rahe said of Nero’s efforts. “He’s a good player. Sometimes it takes a while for these freshmen to feel their way, and he’s trying to find his way. But I thought he was terrific tonight in the second half. He played like a veteran.”

Despite cutting the deficit to six, WSU was unable to complete the comeback. Redshirt freshman guard Brock Miller hit a backbreaking three to put the Aggies up by nine with just under four minutes left on the clock.

Jerrick Harding makes a sprint for the basket. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

A three-point play by Nero cut the deficit to 68–62 with 58 seconds to go, but it was too little too late. The Wildcats were forced to foul and stop the clock on the next two possessions, and Utah State sunk all four free throws.

The Aggies dribbled out the clock for the nine-point victory, the first time they have defeated Weber State since 2015. WSU won in Logan in 2016, and beat Utah State at the Dee Events Center in last season’s home opener.

It was the second consecutive loss for the ‘Cats, who lost to Fresno State University in their last matchup. WSU is now 5–4 on the season.

“We didn’t do what we had to do to be successful (this week),” Braxton said. “Our practices and games were not what Weber State does. They were two teams we could have beaten.”

The Wildcats will have a week off before returning to action on Dec. 15 at home against Utah Valley University. It will be the penultimate non-conference game of the regular season.

Zach Braxton looks for an open teammate as a defender puts pressure on him. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)
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