It was a big night for Weber State University's Aaron Bell who knocked down 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play to lead the Wildcats to an 88-80 victory over Eastern Washington University.
The win gives the `Cats a 1-0 slate to open Big Sky play and boosts the overall record to 6-6. The Wildcats will play Idaho at home on Saturday."This is like the beginning of the end for me," said Bell, a senior. "Me and a couple of the other seniors got together and wanted the best ending to our careers as possible."
The Eagles got on the board first before the `Cats ran off eight straight points in what looked like might be an early demise for Eastern. But the Eagles knocked down four treys in the first 12 minutes to stay close and trading leads with Weber four times before the Wildcats took the lead for good on a 6-0 run to go up 29-24. Eastern battled back with its own mini-run but a couple missed free throws allowed Weber to stay on top. Weber scored the last seven points of the half, including the 'Cat's only trey, to take a 39-31 halftime lead.
Although Weber took control early in the second half, the pesky Eagles never seemed totally out of the game. Eastern added four more treys in the second half, including a 30-footer by Shawn DeLaittre, to stay within striking distance.
In the end it was Weber's foul shooting that put the game on ice. The `Cats canned 13 straight free tosses during crunch time before Jason Joe missed the game's final free throw with just :10 remaining and the Wildcats up by eight. The `Cats were 25 for 27 from the line in the second half to go with four of five in the first half for 90 percent from the line on the night. Meanwhile, the Eagles were going 14 for 22 from the charity stripe.
The boards also told a good deal of the story. Weber out rebounded Eastern 48-39, including 14 offensive boards, many of which resulted in put-backs for the 'Cats.
"We were able to get the ball inside where we needed it and that opened up the perimeter," said Weber Coach Denny Huston. "Aaron (Bell) went to the defensive boards and we converted more (fast) breaks than we have in a long time."
Bell's 21 points lead the Wildcat attack. Joe added 19 quiet points to go with 14 from Jimmy DeGraffenried and 12 from David Baldwin. Baldwin also grabbed seven rebounds to go with Bell's 11 and 10 from reserve center Al Hamilton.