Weber State shakes off championship loss to prepare for CIT

Wednesday , March 15, 2017 - 5:15 AM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Weber State didn’t spend much time licking its wounds after falling short in the Big Sky Championship game.

The team traveled from Reno to Ogden on Sunday, had the day off Monday, and picked up practice again Tuesday in preparation for their game Thursday at Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Senior guard Jeremy Senglin took the loss hard, even with two conference titles and two trips to the NCAA Tournament under his belt.

Former Wildcat and current Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard knows better than most what it’s like to lose in the Big Sky Championship game — he lost three times in three Big Sky title game appearances — and gave Senglin words of encouragement.

“I actually talked to Dame because it was really hard for me,” Senglin said. “He told me he’s been there before. Like he said, ‘It’s not the end of the world. You’re in the CIT so play those games like it’s your last and play hard and try to win that tournament.’ He knows what it’s like. It sucks.”

Weber State head coach Randy Rahe is urging his players to move on and embrace the CIT. Before practice, the 11-year head coach told his team that playing in any postseason tournament is an honor and a privilege. Of the 351 teams in Division I basketball, 148 advance to play in a postseason tournament.

“What carries you through adversity is the culture of your program, the character of your kids,” Rahe said after Tuesday’s practice. “You trust in the players that they’re going to bounce back, find a way to get back going again and get ready to go fight somebody the next time. That’s what we did today.”

Cal State Fullerton (17-14) finished third in the Big West and fell in the semifinals of its conference tournament to eventual champion UC Davis.

The Titans had a strong finish the conference play, winning eight of their last 10 games of the regular season, including a win over UC Davis.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Rahe said. “They were the hottest team in the Big West. Everybody we talked to in that league said they were the best team in the Big West in the second half of the season. They were just punishing everybody in the second half of conference play. We’ve got a challenge. We’re going to have to play really well to be competitive with them.”

Transition defense, shrinking the floor to prevent drives to the basket and rebounding will all be points of emphasis for the Wildcats on Thursday.

Rahe compared the team to Portland State but with better players — like leading scorer Tre Coggins, who he compared to Idaho’s Victor Sanders.

“He can really shoot it, he can really bounce it, he can score in every which way you can think of. (They’re) very similar athletically,” Rahe said. “They’re a very good defensive team, very fast in transition and they’ve got a great player in Coggins. He’s really good. They’re saying down there that they think he might be a pro.”

Thursday’s game is set to tip at 8 p.m. MDT and will be streamed live at Facebook.com/2017CIT and broadcast on 1430 AM KLO.

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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