OGDEN — Weber State basketball coach Randy Rahe noted the progression of his team over the last couple of weeks, especially in the trouncing of Utah Valley on Wednesday.
On Friday, he specifically mentioned that the ability to score in transition has incrementally improved throughout the early stages of the young season.
"I'm excited about what we're starting to become a little bit. ... These guys like to get up and down the court and we've got some speed, and we can get down there pretty quick,” he said. “And when we get that ball pitched up ahead in transition or off a turnover, we get that ball thrown out there quick and we get some opportunities.”
The Wildcats (3-2) will look to giddyup-and-go Saturday against UC Irvine at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center. Currently, WSU maintains the fourth-longest active home winning streak (19) and holds a 2-0 all-time advantage against the Anteaters, including an 80-72 decision in Irvine, Calif., last season.
The versatile lineup will potentially cause problems for Irvine (4-5) with WSU cohesively switching between guards and bigs.
"We like the fact that we can go big sometimes, we can go a little smaller sometimes, we can go more athletic sometimes, we can go shooters sometimes, so we do have some things we can mix and match,” Rahe said. “We have some different combinations and it gives you some flexibility, and I think that helps you improve as a team. If you're just stuck in the same thing with the same combinations, it's hard. But when you can kinda move things around and tweak some things and have different combinations out there, I think it helps you improve, too.”
Weber State has been marksman-like behind the rainbow this season, connecting on 44 percent of its attempts from long-range, which ranks No. 4 nationally. With the obvious shooting threat from deep, post-players Kyle Tresnak and Frank Otis have excelled.
Tresnak scored a season- and game-high 20 points complemented by nine rebounds in the win against UVU, whereas Otis added 14 points and five boards.
The Anteaters are led by senior guards Daman Starring (13.3 ppg and 4.5 rpg) and Michael Wilder (9.2 ppg and 4.6 rpg), who has a team-high 17 made 3-pointers. After starting 3-1, UC Irvine dropped four straight before its 94-52 win against San Diego Christian on Tuesday.
Last season the Anteaters controlled a two-point lead against WSU with less than six minutes remaining in regulation, but behind current Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, the Wildcats reeled off an 11-1 run the following three minutes to secure the win.
Entering the game, an area of concern, ironically, resides in an area that Weber State ranked No.1 nationally last season — the free-throw line, collectively hitting 81 percent. In an earlier win against Arizona Christian and loss against Utah State, WSU bricked 35-of-59 freebies. However, against Utah Valley, the ‘Cats rebounded and sunk 15-of-16 from the charity stripe.
"Now that we've got a few more games under our belt, I think our guys are getting a little more comfortable at the free-throw line," said Rahe. "I think they're getting a little more comfortable when they're open in our offense, and I think the comfort level is starting to come."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company