OGDEN — For the Weber State Wildcats, there is no place like home.
After its heartbreaking overtime loss last Saturday night, Weber State (12-7, 9-1) bounced back and extended its impressive 24-game Big Sky Conference regular season home winning streak Thursday night as the ‘Cats knocked off the University of North Dakota (9-12, 6-5), 84-72 at the Dee Events Center.
“I was proud of our guys bouncing back after that tough one we had Saturday night. You never know how a team is going to respond after something like that,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said after the game. “But I think it showed what they are made of tonight. I’m really proud of them for hanging in there mentally, coming back and finding a way.”
The 25-game home winning streak is a school record, and is just one game behind Montana’s record of 26 consecutive regular season home conference victories, which was snapped earlier this season. The Wildcats’ last conference home loss came in March 2011, at the hands of the Eastern Washington Eagles.
WSU broke free of its early struggles over the first eight minutes of the game after a quick timeout and opened up a 19-2 run over the next six and a half minutes to take a 29-19 lead with just 6:00 remaining in the first half.
“I thought we came out a little bit flat-footed,” added Rahe. “But then we made that push and our energy went up. We got more emotional, more enthusiastic, and when we did, then we made that push at the end of the half.”
Senior forward Davion Berry led the Wildcats’ first-half charge with nine points, while sophomore stud Joel Bolomboy (eight points, five rebounds) and senior guard Jordan Richardson (five points, two assists, two rebounds) provided the purple and white with a much needed spark.
Redshirt freshman Kyndahl Hill came off the bench and was an immediate force down low for Weber State’s defense, while also chipping in five points on the offensive end to help the ‘Cats take a 38-32 lead at the break.
“I thought Hill was great tonight, I really did,” Rahe said. “He was active; he was energized; he made a couple shots for us; and defensively, he was protecting the rim for us. I thought it was a great spark off the bench.”
The strong play of Jaron Nash (27 points, nine rebounds) and UND star Troy Huff (19 points, 10 rebounds) helped North Dakota storm back from a 13-point deficit and keep the visitors within striking distance.
However, WSU big men Kyle Tresnak and Bolomboy then scored 18 points in the first 10:30 of the second half to help ignite an 11-0 Wildcat run and give the home team a commanding 61-49 lead with just 8:48 remaining in the game.
“They were just focusing on our guards,” said Tresnak. “Our guards were playing really well in the first half. We had a couple of buckets, but it was mostly the guards doing most of the work. So I guess they (UND) made that adjustment in the second half, and we got open.”
Weber State was able to keep UND at bay the rest of the way as it held on to pick up its seventh win in its last eight games and extend its Big Sky home winning streak.
Bolomboy (20 points, 10 rebounds), Berry (21 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Tresnak (16 points) set the pace for the Wildcats, while Nash led all scorers in the loss for North Dakota.
Weber State is set to face one of its biggest tests of the year this weekend, as it welcomes Big Sky rival Northern Colorado to the Dee Events Center at 7 p.m. Saturday night. The ‘Cats currently sit one spot ahead of the Bears in the Big Sky Conference standings.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724