OGDEN It sounds an awful lot like coach-speak probably because it is but a team that struggles offensively can always turn to defense as a way to win basketball games.
So when Weber State saw Eastern Washington trim its 43-30 lead to only a 4-point edge with 12:30 to play, Randy Rahe asked his team to pick up the intensity a notch or two.
"Any success we have this year," the second-year Wildcats' coach said after a 74-64 win, "is going to be because we defend."
What happened over the next few possessions turned the tide.
Daviin Davis fed Tyler Billings for a layup on the next trip down the court, then he picked up a steal and Kellen McCoy made a driving layup to give WSU an eight-point lead.
Weber State forced another EWU turnover and Davis drove to the hoop and made another bucket to push the lead back to 10 points.
That stretch told Rahe his team wasn't ready, or willing, to fold under the pressure.
The Wildcats limited the Eagles to just 36 percent shooting in the second half to help that once-struggling offense do everything it needed to pick up the win. And that WSU offense, which now has no player averaging more than 10 points per game, played a balanced game that saw four players pass the double-digit plateau.
Dezmon Harris led the way for the 7-8 Wildcats, who improved to 2-1 in Big Sky action. The senior guard scored 17 points and dished out four assists. Davis again had a solid game, as he chipped in 16 while Billings and Steve Panos added 11 and 10, respectively.
And that offense, which had shot just 34 percent over its three previous games, connected on better than 50 percent of its shots for the second outing in a row this time making 56.3 percent from the floor.
The back-to-back wins give the Wildcats exactly what they were hoping to find in their first Big Sky homestand.
"The preseason don't count," Harris said. "Conference does ... the level of competition is not the same and we can match up better."
The Eagles (7-12, 2-3) were paced by Adris DeLeon's 18 points and made a big push down the stretch by driving to the hoop and working their way to the free-throw line for 17 second-half shots. They made 14 of those, but couldn't make enough down the stretch to get any closer than eight points over the final 10 minutes of the game.
Arturas Valeika, who has seen his team-leading scoring average dip to just 9.9 points per game, had just four points but grabbed 13 rebounds and had a team-best five assists.
"He has a huge effect on the game," Rahe said, "just by rebounding the ball."
So, without an offensive leader or a true go-to guy, the Wildcats have climbed right back into the Big Sky race and have a nice little boost of confidence heading into a Montana road trip."It helps," Rahe said. "Coming into league play, our confidence was shook a bit. Coming home definitely helps that."
E-mail: [email protected]