Weber State basketball: Wildcats push through fatigue to win sixth-straight game
OGDEN — Dictionary.com defines perfect as "exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose."
That situation and that purpose was Davion Berry for Weber State Saturday at the Dee Events Center.
On a night that was hardly perfect, Berry was. The Wildcats’ leading scorer totaled a game-high 21 points on 3-for-3 shooting from the 3-point line, 4-for-4 shooting from the free-throw line and 7-for-7 shooting from the field to help garnish Weber State's sixth-straight win, a 69-61 triumph over Montana State.
“I didn’t even know that. Yes, he was,” said WSU coach Randy Rahe while glancing over his post-game stat sheet. “He was in a really good offensive rhythm tonight. He made the plays that were given to him. He wasn’t forcing a lot. He took what they gave him and he did a great job.”
The win was a culmination of an exhausting stretch of four straight home games in seven days and WSU's eighth game in less than a month. Engulfed in the four-game stretch were three intense rivalry games that resulted in weak legs and mental fatigue against the Bobcats (10-14, 7-8).
“It wasn’t obviously our best effort tonight, but I was really proud of our guys because if you go all the way back to that Montana State-Montana trip — and we bused it the whole way around — it was a long trip and it didn't go great,” Rahe explained. “And then we got to go on a plane and go up to North Dakota — Siberia — wherever the (heck) we were at — it took forever to get there. Then you got to fly down to Colorado and then when you get back you get four games in seven days.
"This has been a really long stretch for our guys and I’m really proud of how they got through it.”
WSU (19-5, 14-2), which ranks third nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense, allowed a season-high nine 3-pointers — eight of which came courtesy of Marcus Colbert (5) and Christian Moon (3).
Colbert tallied 19 points on 7 of 12 from the field and Moon added 15 points.
“We weren’t alert. We didn’t get to people as quickly as we usually do, and I think we were a little fatigued,” Rahe said. “I think our minds weren’t working quite as fast. But you got to give them credit — they had to make them and they made a couple long ones. But for how we play that’s unacceptable because we don’t let teams have 3s.”
Surprisingly, WSU’s perfect storm against Montana on Thursday carried over early in the first half. The Wildcats started 6 for 9 with two treys and took a 20-11 lead when Gelaun Wheelwright corralled a loose ball and sunk a pull-up, free-throw-extended jumper. The ‘Cats, who rank third nationally in field goal percentage, finished 25 for 39 (64 percent).
Montana State answered quickly with 3-pointers by Marcus Colbert and Calen Coleman and a bucket by Antonio Biglow to claw within three, 22-19, with 8:32 in the first half.
“We need to play better D — me especially,” Jordan Richardson, who poured in a season-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, said. “I need to do a better job on that end, but we just had to come together as a team."
However, following a season-trend, the Wildcats went to Berry, who delivered an and-one. Throughout the year, on countless occasions, Berry has cut opposing teams' surges with timely and-one buckets.
“I just try and attack and make plays for my teammates and take the opportunity that I get,” said Berry, who also finished with five assists.
WSU maintained a 35-30 advantage at the break after eight first-half turnovers.
In the second half, the Bobcats — who handed WSU its first Big Sky loss earlier in the year — once again pulled with three, 40-37, with 17:05 remaining in regulation when Paul Egwuonwu connected on a mid-range hook in the key.
Berry, like clockwork, quickly traveled down court, dodging multiple defenders, and scooped home another and-one bucket. The following possession, Berry pushed the issue once more and found a trailing Scott Bamforth, who buried a 3-pointer to give WSU a 46-37 lead with 15:49 left.
The series sparked a 15-2 run that pushed the Wildcats’ cushion to 55-41 before Moon hit a corner 3-pointer. Up until that point, the Bobcats were 1 for 13 since closing the margin to three.
WSU, albeit never trailing, allowed MSU to linger around and when Moon sunk his third 3 ball at 1:55, the Bobcats pulled within single digits for the first time since the 15:49 mark.
But, behind Berry and Frank Otis’ four straight freebies, WSU iced the game when Moon’s forced 3-pointer with 38 seconds fell several continents short.
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