OGDEN When Weber State lost to Northern Arizona last Friday, it knocked the Wildcats out of first place in the Big Sky.
But Wildcats coach Randy Rahe didn't want to hear anything about those who thought the defeat meant WSU was in trouble.
"Those people aren't very smart," he said.
Indeed. It took less than 48 hours for the Wildcats to find themselves back in a virtual tie for the Big Sky's top spot after Idaho State upset the Lumberjacks on Sunday afternoon.
Coincidentally, those very same Bengals visit the Dee Events Center tonight to tip off a back-to-back, home-and-home set between the rivals. Tonight's 7 p.m. game will also be televised on KJZZ.
"This is a key stretch for us," Rahe said. "We really have to buckle down and tough it out."
Playing their rivals in back-to-back games is a bit of a scheduling quirk, but one the Wildcats don't mind dealing with especially since it means limited travel and a chance to focus in on their gameplan.
The Bengals, despite owning a 5-2 Big Sky record, bring the conference's lowest-scoring offense into the game. ISU averages barely 60 points per game and is outscored on average by more than 10 points per contest. Much of that disparity, though, can be attributed to a brutal preseason schedule with games at BYU, Utah, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
Since leaving the big boys behind, ISU has enjoyed a resurgence and has now climbed into contention for a high seed in the Big Sky tourney.
For both the Bengals and the Wildcats, this weekend's matchup will go a long way in determining those post-season aspirations.
The Bengals will be trying to avoid a repeat of the similar hot start they had last season before fading fast down the stretch.
"Everybody that was here last year remembers that really good 5-0 start, and how things started to change a little bit," O'Brien told the Idaho State Journal. "Whether we didn't know how to handle winning, or whether we got too confident and took some people for granted, I don't know. I've been trying to figure out for a year what went wrong."
ISU is led by junior Matt Stucki's 11.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 swingman from Pocatello is complimented by Amarrow Morgan's 10.3 points per game and Logan Kinghorn's 4.5 rebounding average.Weber State's Dezmon Harris scores 10.9 points per game while Arturas Valeika averages 9.9 points and 8.9 rebounds.