March Madness began in Ogden as the Wildcats scratched out the Northern Colorado Bears by a single point in a 60-59 grind out win for WSU.

Isiah Brown shooting a fall away jumper against the NCU Bears.
Isiah Brown shooting a fall away jumper against the NCU Bears. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

Michal Kozak’s free throw with 0.7 seconds to play hit nothing but net and secured the Wildcat victory in a wild chain of events in Ogden.

Michal Kozak celebrating with his teammates after the win.
Michal Kozak celebrating with his teammates after the win. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

“This is the strangest game I’ve seen from our team in a long time. We call it slugging rats, both teams are slugging rats,” Wildcats head coach Randy Rahe said. “It’s just you’re trying to knock another rat off and hang in there and fight through. It was just an incredible grind.”

Kountz drilled a 3-pointer for the Bears putting WSU behind by five points with 7:14 left to play in the game.

After Seikou Sisoho Jawara hit a jumper to give WSU a 42-36 lead with 13:50 to play, Dillon Jones would be the only Wildcat to score in the following 10:03 of the second half.

“I like that we tried really hard, but other than that it just didn’t look like our team whatsoever,”Coach Rahe said. “It looked like we were playing tight, we weren’t playing with any kind of looseness or ball movement. It looked like nobody was really enjoying playing basketball.”

The Freshman forward had the limited Dee Events crowd on its feet with his ferocious defense and rebounding. The latter landed him at the free-throw line where he drained both shots cutting the NCU lead to three.

Kountz missed a three leading to Jones laying the ball in on the other end— cutting the Bears lead to 51-50 with 5:27 left on the clock.

NCU’s Bryce Kennedy buried a quick triple on the dish form Kountz to put the Bears back up by four.

Following a Tre’Shon Smoots free throw which put NCU up by five, Sisoho Jawara threw a pass into the paint to Cody Carlson who finished through contact for the bucket.

With the Wildcats trailing by three NCU’s Bodie Hume’s layup was blocked by Kozak and Sisoho Jawara dished the ball to Carlson standing behind the 3-point line and he swished the three— tying the game at 55-55.

In the final two minutes, fouls and free throws for both teams knotted the game at 59.

Matt Johnson put up a shot for NCU in the final three seconds and it was rebounded by Kozak.

Kountz committed an unthinkable intentional foul on Kozak that sucked the air out of the arena. Kountz was beside himself following the play with his teammates and coaches looking on in shock.

Kozak only needed to make one of the two free throws to give the Wildcats the win.

“It was crazy that he fouled him. I couldn’t believe he fouled him, but we’ll take it,” Jones said.

Dillon Jones putting up a shot against the NCU Bears.
Dillon Jones putting up a shot against the NCU Bears. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

Jones defense and rebounding prowess led the way for the Wildcats in a wild one at the Dee.

“Being the only freshman I didn’t know how it as going to work out, but I just put my faith in God,” Jones said.

The Freshman scored 18 points on the night, tied for the team lead, and led the Wildcats with nine rebounds.

“Credit to my coaches who put me in position to be successful,” Jones said.

Brown matched Jones with 18 points of his own including immediately started the scoring for the Wildcats with two quick mid-range jumpers—WSU’s first points on the scoreboard.

Daylen Kountz was a Bear on the hunt scoring seven of the Bears first 12 points of the game and led NCU to a quick 12-6 lead.

Brown kept clawing and took the ball to hoop through contact and finished taking a fall to the court and slid across the hardwood.

Brown’s layup took the Wildcats into the halftime locker room with a 30-27 lead.

Coming out of the half WSU put up 12 points before the team’s scoring drought and Jones takeover of the game.

Dontay Bassett rising above the Norther Colorado defense.
Dontay Bassett rising above the Norther Colorado defense. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

Kountz finishing with 14 points, but turned the ball over six times. His foul on Kozak sealed the Bears fate in Ogden.

Before WSU’s slugfest with the Bears on March 4, the Wildcats escaped the sting of the Sacramento State Hornets after Brown put in a layup with blank time on the clock giving WSU a 72-70 victory.

The team’s experienced two close games right before the start of the Big Sky Tournament.

“When you win them, and we talked about it in Sac State after that second game. It’s really going to help us, and I think it might’ve helped us tonight because we didn’t panic,” Coach Rahe said about the tight contests his team’s experienced.

WSU’s matchup against NCU on March 6, was canceled due to COVID protocols.

The next time the Wildcats will step on the hardwood is inside Idaho Central Arena at the Big Sky Tournament in Boise, Idaho.

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