While many Weber State University students headed to their morning classes on March 11, the men’s basketball team took to the court in the first round of the Big Sky Championship against the Sacramento State Hornets in downtown Boise, falling 62–54.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Head Coach Randy Rahe said. “I absolutely loved coaching this team. It was a hard year for us; the hardest year I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Weber State’s offense, which has struggled throughout most of the year, looked to get past the sixth-best defense in the nation.
The Hornets got off to a quick start on a 12–2 run after senior Osi Nwachukwu hit a midrange jumper, forcing Rahe to call a timeout and settle his team down.
Junior Michal Kozak stopped the bleeding with a midrange jumper, followed by a 3-pointer. Senior Jerrick Harding followed with an and1, and the Wildcats found themselves down by just four.
Weber State’s defense during the run kept the Hornets scoreless for four minutes, but Sac State hit the next two 3-pointers, holding the ’Cats scoreless for the next six minutes before freshman Tim Fuller threw it down.
Weber State found themselves down 10 with just one minute left in the half, but the Wildcat offense went on a 6–0 run to end the half down 30–26.
Harding got the Wildcats going early in the second half, shooting a deep 3-pointer beyond the arc and converting an and1. Weber State found themselves with the lead early in the half for the first time since they led 2–0.
The Hornets answered with a 7–0 run over the next three minutes before Harding hit both of his free throws.
“Today, they had a bunch of guys make shots that haven’t made shots all year,” Rahe said. “Our game plan was perfect and they made them. I got to give them credit for doing it, but that was the difference in the game.”
With the clock ticking down to under six minutes, both the Wildcats and the Hornets went three minutes without any points. The Hornets still held a narrow 46–42 lead over the Wildcat offense, which proved to just be Harding.
With 5:38 seconds, junior Kham Davis was called for the reach-in foul, and Sac State drained both free throws as both teams entered the bonus.
Cody John broke through scoring his first points since the first half, but the Hornets’ long possession and another offensive rebound led to a 3-pointer and a 51–44 lead.
Harding hit both his free throws, and Rahe called a timeout to talk things over as the ’Cats looked to comeback, down five.
With just over one minute remaining, Sac State hit a deep 3-pointer and two free throws, jumping out to a six-point lead.
Sac State finished the Wildcats season at the free throw line, and Nwachukwu waved to the WSU bench as the Hornets finished off the ’Cats 62–54.
“It’s tough to lose like we did today,” Harding said. “We were confident in what we were doing.”
Weber State’s loss is the end for John and Harding, as both look to continue playing.
“It went by fast,” Harding said of his career at WSU.