OGDEN — After playing its last three games on the road in three different time zones, the Weber State men's basketball team finally returns home for the first time in almost a month to host instate foe Utah Valley University this evening.
The Wildcats come into tonight's contest off a quality 62-61 win a week ago at Dayton, which boasts one of the better home-court advantages in the country. Weber State, which is 3-0 against UVU in Ogden, aims to employ its own home-court advantage into another victory over the Wolverines. The Wildcats have won 18 straight at the Dee Events Center — currently the fourth-longest home-court winning streak in the country.
The last time these two teams met, last March in the opening round of the collegeinsider.com postseason tournament, the 'Cats claimed a narrow 72-69 victory at the Dee Events Center.
Over its last three games, Weber State went 1-2 with a 68-67 overtime loss at San Jose State, followed by a 65-55 loss at Utah State and then the come-from-behind victory over Dayton, which led by seven points in the second half in front of its home-court crowd of 12,176 — the largest crowd the Wildcats have played in front of in three seasons.
"I was extremely proud of how hard we fought in a very difficult environment at Dayton," said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. "We fought back after being down and showed a lot of toughness down the stretch.
"We set up this schedule last year. ... This is really good for us. You can either go test yourself and go play these kind of games — at San Jose, Utah State, Dayton — or you can schedule some (easy) games and win by 20 and think you're better than you are. And then all of a sudden, it's going to catch up with you. So I prefer to go out and test us and see where we're at and see how tough we can be and see how together we can be, and if we'll allow it to, these games will make us better.
"It's a heck of a test. It tests your manhood, it tests your toughness, it tests your togetherness — everything," Rahe said. "And that's what these games are gonna do. So we've got big-picture in mind right now."
Utah Valley, coached by former Weber State player and assistant coach Dick Hunsaker, comes into tonight's contest off a solid 67-63 overtime victory against Pepperdine last Saturday. The coach's son, junior guard Holton Hunsaker, scored 18 of his 22 points after halftime in that win, including seven points in overtime.
The Wolverines and Wildcats both own lopsided victories this season over Arizona Christian, which lost to UVU 96-70 and was beaten by WSU 110-52.
Ben Aird leads the Wolverines in scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 per game) while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Alfonzo Hubbard adds 9.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game for UVU and Nick Thompson is averaging 9.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.
"Utah Valley is a very tough, physical, hard-nosed team that is extremely well coached," Rahe said. "They will play very hard and we will have to be ready to compete."
The Wildcats' leading scorer is junior forward Davion Berry with 14.5 points per game, while junior guard Scott Bamforth adds 10.5 ppg and is shooting 93 percent from the foul line. Freshman big man Joel Bolomboy is second among Big Sky players with 8.0 rebounds per game, and junior guard Jordan Richardson is averaging 10 ppg while shooting 59.1 percent from the field and a whopping 72.7 from 3-point range for the Wildcats.
"Weber State is very balanced with outstanding perimeter quickness and three-point threats," Coach Hunsaker said. "We will need to be on the top of our game to compete in Ogden."
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WSU, UVU on the air
Utah Valley (4-5) at Weber State (2-2)
Today, 7 p.m.
Dee Events Center, Ogden
TV: none Radio: 106.9 FM