Weber State basketball struggles to put away Western State in exhibition

Thursday , November 02, 2017 - 10:20 PM

BRETT HEIN, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Weber State men’s basketball opened 2017-18 action with an exhibition Thursday night, but the Wildcats only turned in 20 minutes of energy and had to hold off an upset bid.

Western State — a Division II school from Gunnison, Colorado — put Weber State on the wrong side of a 28-9 run to open the second half, a rally the Wildcats finally stamped out on the way to an 84-77 win at the Dee Events Center.

Zach Braxton converted a bucket and foul, and Jerrick Harding and Ryan Richardson combined to make five free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

“We just lost our energy,” Harding said. “We weren’t talking on defense and just had a lot of let-ups, giving them 3s, which we don’t usually do.”

Utah transfer Brekkott Chapman, who scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in his first game in more than a year, said it was a lesson in not letting shotmakers get chances.

“They can make shots in a hurry if you let them, they totally took advantage of the defense we were playing in the second half,” Chapman said. “We just slowed down defensively and they took advantage of it.”

Ben Beauchamp scored 31 to lead Western State, 21 of them in the second half, to help the Mountaineers nearly erase a 52-26 halftime deficit. He scored five straight to make it a 65-61 game with 6:41 left.

“We let our guard down a little bit, we don’t play with the same intensity and quite the same energy, they make a few shots ... and all of a sudden before you know it, they fight their way back in,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “Valuable lesson for us tonight, you gotta keep playing no matter what the score is.”

Harding scored 26 to lead the Wildcats after getting the start at point guard. Chapman, Braxton, Richardson and true freshman Trevon Ary-Turner filled out the starting lineup.

The guard lineup of Harding and Ary-Turner came because junior Cody John will miss the entirety of the season with a back injury he suffered during the summer.

“That’s tough ... Cody’s been working so hard, I just feel sick to my stomach for him,” Rahe said. “He’s a veteran guy for us. It hurts us from an experience standpoint. It puts a little more onus on the freshmen.”

Ary-Turner had spurts of ball-handling duty in addition to shooting guard minutes. He shot 0 for 2 from the 3-point line and dished two assists in 18 minutes.

Ricky “Doc” Nelson scored one point in 13 minutes of back-up point guard duty.

Sophomore center Jordan Dallas also sat, still nursing a knee injury suffered nearly three months ago. Rahe said he is expected to return and contribute after having a great summer, but his return does not have a specific timetable.

Senior Dusty Baker played 23 minutes and eventually fouled out in a game that saw a whopping 53 fouls whistled. Freshman Michal Kozak played 24 minutes in the post, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds.

Weber State debuted a new offense, committing to increased floor spacing and ball movement, and in the first half seemed to push the ball up court on misses more frequently than in the past.

The Wildcats shot 70 percent from the field (19 of 27) and 3-point line (7 of 10) in the first half, but dropped to 38 percent overall and 1 of 8 from deep in the second half.

“Our ball movement was terrific in the first half,” Rahe said. “We got that ball moving side to side, got the floor spread out, made some good decisions ... and then the ball stopped moving in the second half. We’ve got to make that defense move.”

Rahe, Chapman and Harding each contributed the letdown to a lack of energy and mental intensity.

Weber State opens the regular season by hosting Utah State on Nov. 10.

EXHIBITIONS AROUND THE BIG SKY

Eastern Washington 76, Portland 70: The Eagles topped the West Coast Conference foe on Oct. 29. Seven-foot transfer Benas Griciunas scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for EWU.

Montana State 78, MSU Northern 73: Montana State struggled to put away its in-state NAIA foe as the game Wednesday was tied with 12 minutes left. Tyler Hall shot 3 of 12 and led MSU with 15 points. MSU head coach Brian Fish said his squad is a “selfish, bad basketball team,” according to reporting from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Northern Colorado 106, Johnson & Wales 81: Anthony Johnson hit seven 3-pointers and the Bears beat up on their Division-III (non-scholarship) opponent Thursday.

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