Weber State men’s basketball pounced on the Thunderbirds in an explosive game at the Dee on Jan. 21. The Thunderbirds swooped in looking for a win, but left with a loss of 91-67.
Cody Carlson led the Wildcats in scoring, with his career best of 25 points. He got off to a quick start by burying a three on a dish from Seikou Sisoho-Jawara for Weber State’s first points of the night.
The Wildcats led with an early double digit lead with a 10–0 run right out of the gates to start the game. Southern Utah’s Maizen Fausett put an end to Weber State’s run with a 3-pointer five minutes into the first half.
“We had great energy. The kids were excited about playing our first conference game in forever. They’re excited about league play and wanted to come out and play well tonight, and they did a good job of following the game plan,” Wildcats Head Coach Randy Rahe said.
Dontay Bassett brought the energy early for Weber State with an and-1 finish from the free throw line, where he shot five of six from on the game and a monster block early in the first half. He finished the game with four blocks.
Back-to-back baskets from Isiah Brown gave the Wildcats a 21–9 lead nearly halfway through the first half.
A three from Michal Kozak off a behind-the-back pass from KJ Cunningham put Weber State’s lead at 28–9 and capped off a 14–0 run for the Wildcats with 7:46 to go in the opening half.
After a big two-handed slam from Carlson, the Wildcats caught fire from the 3-point line.
Brown buried back-to-back shots from deep 3-point range followed by another 3-pointer from Zahir Porter.
“They would send that double-team, so it’d just leave the guard wide open for the three, so I’d just try to get the ball, wait for them to double-team and make the open pass. It broke down their defense,” Carlson said.
Carlson went back to work in the paint in the final minutes of the first half, scoring three baskets for the Wildcats, giving them a 20-point lead for a score of 47–27.
Carlson went into the locker room at halftime with a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds.
To start the second half, Carlson and Bassett hit back-to-back buckets from beyond the arc to get the Wildcats going.
Carlson shot two of three and Bassett one of four from 3-point range on the game. Kozak finished three of five from deep.
“It’s a big advantage. It gives us a lot of versatility in how we can attack a team, and we can throw it inside, and they can step outside and shoot threes, so it’s fun to have that, and we can run a lot of different things to give them different looks,” Rahe said.
The game screeched to a much slower pace in the second half due to the physical play. Both teams committed 13 fouls combined in the first half, but in the second half, Weber State alone committed 18 to the Thunderbirds’ 15.
The Wildcats battled through the physical play, exemplified by Brown’s and-1 layup through contact to give Weber State a 63–46 lead. Brown was able to get baskets in when the Wildcats needed it the most.
“Isiah’s capable of doing. He knows when he needs to be more aggressive if we’re struggling a little bit, and he’ll make a play. He’s got a scorer mentality that way,” Rahe said.
The foul-fest and choppy play reached its peak when technical fouls were assessed to Southern Utah’s Head Coach Todd Simon and Weber State’s Bassett with five minutes to go in the game.
Despite the contentious play down the stretch, the Wildcat’s bench brought the game home with Dillon Jones and David Nzekwesi scoring the final points for Weber State.
After the team’s runaway victory at the Dee, Weber State traveled south to take on the Thunderbirds in Cedar City.
“You have to have that edge. We have to play with an edge and if you don’t have it you just can’t be successful, and so we’re going to have to have that going down there, these guys [SUU] are a high-scoring, very potent, offensive team,” Rahe said.
On Jan. 23, Weber State fell to the Thunderbirds 77–72 at America First Event Center.
Next up for the Wildcats is a road trip to Moscow, Idaho to face a winless Vandals squad on Jan. 28 and 30.
The Wildcats return to the Dee Events Center to take on Montana State on Feb. 4 and 6.