OGDEN — On Saturday against Weber State, North Dakota took a slim lead after Aaron Anderson, the Big Sky's co-leading scorer, bucketed seven points on his team's first three possessions.
The advantage, which occurred with 17:32 remaining in the first half, lasted shorter than a Taylor Swift acceptance speech.
Behind a combination of suffocating Weber State defense and poor UND offensive execution, the Wildcats embarked on scoring runs of 20-3 and 17-4 to make quick work of their fourth straight conference foe during a 95-63 win at the Dee Events Center.
"I thought early on our defensive urgency and pressure was pretty good. I thought we defended really well and that helped set the tone and we were able to get some transition going," said WSU coach Randy Rahe, who improved to 46-4 at home against Big Sky competition during his seven years with the 'Cats. "I thought we paid attention to detail, in a short turnaround, of trying to get prepared and what we needed to do to be successful tonight."
WSU momentarily let North Dakota's Anderson get going with seven quick points. Anderson, fresh off a season-high 19 points against Idaho State, entered Saturday having led UND in scoring in 8 of 12 games and rested atop the Big Sky, averaging 17.7 points per game.
The speedy, agile guard found his stroke with two gimmes and a straightaway 3-pointer, but after a defensive switch to counter his maneuvers, UND's role players failed to relieve the scoring duties. Anderson eventually finished with a game-high 23 points.
"He's a guy that's moving all over the place," said Weber State's Davion Berry, who spent time guarding Anderson. "So, you got to keep chasing and keep fighting. Our big men did a great job of having him make tough shots over them."
In the first half, UND (4-9, 1-3) shot 16 percent (5-31) from the field while connecting on a mere two field goals during the final 17:32 of the first half. The Wildcats held UND without a field goal on stretches from 17:32 to 10:37, 10:37 to 3:41, and then scoreless until the halftime buzzer sounded.
Meanwhile, WSU's record is now 7-0 when Kyle Tresnak reaches double digits. Tresnak poured in a career-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting while hitting 8-of-10 at the free-throw line. Scott Bamforth, still steaming from beyond the arc, added 19 points with five 3-pointers. Gelaun Wheelwright chipped in 13 points and Joel Bolomboy corralled 11 boards off the bench.
Berry bounced back after a one-point outing against Northern Colorado with 20 points, six assists and six rebounds.
"He had those wide eyes tonight and he was ready to get back going and play like he's capable," Rahe said of Berry.
The 32-point margin of victory was the largest during conference play in nearly four years for Weber State (9-3, 4-0). In four Big Sky contests this season, the 'Cats have won collectively by 82 points.
Given the recent yawners, complacency is a legitimate concern. However, with a 20-point cushion midway through the second half, Rahe called timeout and passionately chewed out a lethargic lineup that had played uncharacteristically bedraggled.
"I got (mad) 'cause we gave up three or four baskets in a row. That's how we do it — we're going to push them. We've won a couple games by a pretty good margin, but we need to get better," Rahe explained. "We've played a couple teams that have come in here that have played a lot of road games. We're not going to see that all the time — we're going to see fresher teams. We're going to push them. We're never going to relax. We're going to stay on edge and, if we don't, somebody is going to kick our butt."
The Wildcats returned to usual form after the timeout and ultimately finished plus-20 on the glass. They enjoyed a huge 19-3 advantage in assists, shot 20-of-24 from the charity stripe and won the battles in the paint and on second-chance opportunities.
"We got stuff to prove," Berry said. "None of us have won a championship here, so we hungry. We got to play like we've got a chip on our shoulder."
The 'Cats hit the road to take on Southern Utah (5-7, 3-0) on Jan. 10.
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