Weber State College almost went into its victory cruise too early Saturday night, forcing Coach Denny Huston to rush his starting guard tandem of Moochie Cobb and Timmy Gibbs back into the game with two minutes left to play as the Wildcats held on for a 78-64 triumph over Montana State.
The Wildcats, who led by 23 points with about five minutes remaining in the game, could manage only one bucket in the final three minutes.Huston had high praise for Gibbs, whose 11 second-half points - including three for three from three-point range - sparked the Wildcat surge. "Timmy Gibbs played an incredible game for us tonight," Huston said.
Gibbs finished the night with 15 points and five rebounds. Meanwhile, WSC center Rico Washington scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
Montana State Coach Stu Starner said Weber proved it was for real - a genuine Big Sky Conference title contender. "Rico Washington is the league's premiere low-post player, and Weber has two of the best guards in the league," Starner said. "Washington was there when they needed him and that's all you can ask."
For the visiting Bobcats, it was two extended dry spells that doomed them. The first was a four-minute drought midway through the first half, with the other being a three-minute stretch in the second half. Weber responded with runs of 11-0 and 9-0, respectively, to take control of the game.
Montana State started strong, jumping to a 20-12 lead early in the game. The Bobcats used small spurts to buid their lead, using an aggressive man-to-man defense to keep Weber off balance. Weber's erratic ball handling prompted a time out, as Huston tore into his huddled-up players.
"I just yelled at them," said Huston when asked what he told his players during the timeout.
The stern chat appeared to do the trick, as Weber clawed back with 10 straight points to take its first lead at 22-20 with 8:30 remaining in the opening half. MSU tied it, only to see Weber score the next five points to take the lead for good. With their 11-0 run a few minutes later, Weber surged to a 39-31 halftime edge.
With Gibbs and Washington leading the way, the Wildcats surged to a 23-point cushion in the second half and then cruised on in to lift their Big Sky record to 3-1 and their season record to 10-3. The 10 wins surpasses last year's season win total.
Montana State fell to 1-3 in the conference and 8-7 overall.
Following Washington's scoring lead and Gibbs' 15 total points, Weber State's Mark Frazier had nine points and Chris Metke and Anthony McGowan eight each. For Montana State, center Mike Fellows and forward Scott Peiper had 12 each.