That was one heck of a college basketball game. It was hard-fought, it was high intensity, high energy, and it was just a really good college basketball game. —Weber State coach Randy Rahe
OGDEN — By all accounts, Randy Rahe’s Weber State Wildcats looked finished Saturday in Ogden. Trailing 60-59, with nine seconds remaining, Weber State fouled Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis.
The junior guard made the first, missed the second after a Rahe timeout, and then fouled Jerrick Harding with 5.8 seconds left to give Weber State an opportunity.
Harding calmly knocked down both shots to knot the game at 61-61 and force overtime.
In the extra period, Zach Braxton, who finished with a career high 25, scored an early basket, Harding got loose for a pull-up jumper, and Braxton muscled up his own missed offensive rebound to give Weber State a 67-65 lead. Harding added a late basket and Dusty Baker a pair of free throws as Weber State held on for a 71-66 win.
“That was one heck of a college basketball game,” Randy Rahe, Weber State coach said. “It was hard-fought, it was high intensity, high energy, and it was just a really good college basketball game.”
The Wildcats trailed by double-digits in the first half and didn't shoot the ball very well. Rahe said Brekkott Chapman and Ryan Richardson’s defense were vital to Weber State having a chance at the end.
“I really felt like that game was won by our defense, primarily by Brekkott Chapman and Ryan Richardson,” Rahe said. “Chapman (five blocked shots) did a good job on keeping first-team Big Sky player, Jordan Davis, out of the lane, and Richardson did a great job on Andre Spight, probably the best guard in the league. To hold those guys to 12-43 shooting was a big, big part of the game.”
At the end of an ugly first half for Weber State, who at one point trailed 27-13. Richardson forced a late turnover, Braxton converted down low and Harding added a last basket, yet the Wildcats trailed 29-19 after a season low for first-half points.
Despite having a significant size advantage, the Wildcats were outrebounded 25-14 (8-0 on offensive rebounds), and let the Bears have an 18-8 first-half advantage in points in the paint.
“We were low showing on the ball screens in the first half,” Braxton said. “We started hard-hedging to try to keep them out of the paint, and it helped a lot not letting those guards get down hill on us.”
After Weber State played perhaps its worst half of offensive basketball, Richardson made an early 3-pointer, Michal Kozak scored off glass, and, by the 16:49, mark the Wildcats trailed 31-28. They were down 34-32 the officials waved off a Harding made, 3-pointer and the Wildcats didn’t pull even Richardson made two free-throws at the 11:28 mark to tie the game at 38-38.
Weber State culminated a 9-0 run with a Harding dunk and a Richardson 3-pointer to take its biggest lead of the game, 43-38.
“That sequence was huge for us,” Harding said. “In that run, we started getting stops, and that helped our offense get going.”
Northern Colorado scrapped its way back into the game and took a late lead. Davis dunked to give the Bears a 58-55 lead with 42 seconds remaining. A Harding drive and pull-up 10-footer cut the lead to 58-57 with 31 seconds remaining. Northern Colorado freshman Anthony Johnson put the lead back up to 60-57 with 22 seconds remaining.
Baker, who played 34 minutes, didn’t score until the final two free throws that sealed the game for Weber State.
“Dusty does all the little things,” Harding said. “He rebounds, he takes charges, gave us some toughness and hit those two free-throws down the stretch.”
The Wildcats improved to 17-7 overall and 10-2 in Big Sky play and impressed their coach with the effort.
“I trust these guys,” Rahe said. “At halftime, we made a few minor adjustments, and the kids executed really well and then we got our confidence back.”