Just because we’re at home, it’s not going to come easy. We have to play hard, play tough, play the way that we play. And that’s what we did. —Weber State forward Kyndahl Hill
By JIM BURTON
For the Deseret News
OGDEN — From all appearances, Weber State basketball coach Randy Rahe isn’t a big arts-and-crafts guy. So there’s not much chance he’s going to create one of those fancy wall decor signs for his team’s locker room.
But if he did, it might read: “There’s no place like home but only if you keep your edge and urgency.”
That was Rahe’s message for his Wildcats going into Thursday night’s 91-66 victory over Idaho at the Dee Events Center.
“The first home game after a road trip, it’s like that’s when 68 percent of the home losses occur,” the coach said, referencing a national college basketball study he saw a few years back.
“That’s always stuck with me and it’s because it’s human nature,” Rahe added. “You come back and you’ve been on the road, and how do you have to play on the road to be successful? You’ve got to have great edge and great urgency.”
Thursday’s blowout win was a lot of things, but it surely wasn’t a sign that the Wildcats (8-6 overall; 3-0 Big Sky Conference) had lost any urgency or edge.
Although Rahe’s guys started out a bit slowly — the Vandals owned a 14-13 lead at the 10:39 mark of the first half — they rallied in the later stages of the half and eventually took a 45-30 lead into halftime.
The ‘Cats outscored their opponents 46-36 in the second half and the outcome never seemed to be in question.
WSU’s Jeremy Senglin scored a team-high 21 points, hitting 5 for 9 from behind the 3-point arc. Teammate Kyndahl Hill finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and junior forward Ryan Richardson added 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.
Guard Victor Sanders led the Vandals with 13 points.
The win marked Weber’s sixth straight dating back to Dec. 10. The ‘Cats came into Thursday’s game having upended Montana State and Montana — always a difficult road swing — with a couple of hard-fought wins.
Naturally, Rahe warned his players about the risk of a welcome-home hangover.
He said that for the past six years he has given his teams variations of the same caveat: It’s good to be home, sure. But maintain your sense of urgency and for crying out loud, don’t lose that edge.
“I reminded them about that a couple of days ago and I said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen to us,’” Rahe explained.
And it most certainly didn’t happen.
Idaho (6-9, 1-3) is known as a tough and physical team. Rahe noted the Vandals’ size and athleticism and said he warned his players to be ready for something of a battle.
To that end, Idaho did come out with a great deal of energy and physical play. But the ‘Cats weathered that first wave and responded with an 11-2 run midway through the first half.
Rahe insisted his team’s slow start had nothing to do with home-court complacency. He said that was a combination of Idaho’s early toughness and the ‘Cats being somewhat shocked at just how tough the Vandals were.
Hill said the difference was focus, plain and simple.
The ‘Cats were glad to be home, and of course, they were prepared to flash some edge and urgency.
“Just because we’re at home, it’s not going to come easy,” the 6-foot-7 senior forward said. “We have to play hard, play tough, play the way that we play. And that’s what we did.”
As for Senglin, who ranks No. 3 on WSU’s all-time scoring list and is the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made, he said the key to the ‘Cats’ winning streak is togetherness and teamwork.
“We’re hungry,” he said. “Six in a row is not good enough for us. We want more.”
Sounds like a perfect message for one of those nice wall decor signs.