There are many lessons to take from a tough three-game road stretch, but Wednesday the Wildcats learned the one coach Randy Rahe most wanted them to understand: How to win.
Senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth hit two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining and Weber State held on for a wild 62-61 victory over a tough Dayton team at UD Arena at Dayton, Ohio.
Hanging on to a one-point lead with nine seconds remaining, WSU's defense forced Dayton senior forward Josh Benson, who had 17 points, into a five-second call on the baseline to get the ball back. The Flyers had to foul, sending Bamforth, a 90 percent free throw shooter to the line for two shots.
Kevin Dillard, who had a game-high 18 points for Dayton, missed a contested 3 to try to tie it at the end. Devin Oliver grabbed the rebound and put in a meaningless layup as time expired, but the Wildcats (2-2) escaped the site of the NCAA Tournament First Four with a rare win over Dayton (4-2) on its home court. Coming into Wednesday's contest, the Flyers were 90-15 at UD Arena over that stretch and with 12,176 in attendance, have had 205 consecutive home games with over 11,000 fans.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of our guys. There's not a lot of teams that come in here and walk out with a win," Rahe said in a postgame radio interview. "We're starting to develop a toughness, togetherness and competitiveness; all those things we had to have (Wednesday) in a tough environment. This is a great place to play college basketball. This place is loud."
Dayton's only previous loss was to No. 23 Colorado.
Junior center Kyle Tresnak, who averaged just four points per game through Weber State's first three contests, busted out with a team-best 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting and had seven rebounds and two blocks, to the delight of his many relatives in attendance.
"We've got a lot of new guys we're trying to mesh, but it's getting better and better," Tresnak said after Weber State's first road win of the season.
Bamforth finished with a season-high 15 points as the Wildcats, who shot a paltry 30.8 percent in the first half, heated up to shoot 61.9 percent in the second half and 44.7 overall.
"We're a new team, everybody's new (this season), but now we're getting rolling," Bamforth said, feeling more comfortable in the offense together.
Freshman forward Joel Bolomboy had his third double-digit rebounding game in the first four contests of his career and junior forward Davion Berry, WSU's leading scorer in his first three games as a Wildcat, added nine points.
Weber State committed 12 turnovers in the first half and trailed 25-20 at the break, but the Wildcats persevered despite having four players finish with four fouls.
WSU opened the second half on a 13-2 run as Bamforth got hot and scored eight straight for the 'Cats, including a pair of 3s.
Dayton tied it at 38-all but a Bolomboy dunk on a Richardson assist gave Weber State an advantage it built to a nine-point lead until Benson bullied his way to an and-1 with 2:34 remaining put the Flyers back on top, 57-56.
A Tresnak free throw and a huge 3 from Bamforth kept the Wildcats in control for the final stretch. Benson made two free throws with 1:14 remaining but they were Dayton's final points until the non-factor putback at the buzzer.
The Wildcats outrebounded the Flyers 36-31 and shared the ball, dishing assists on 17 of their 21 field goals.
"Our kids deserved to win that game, as hard as they played," Rahe said, "but not only that, as hard as they've been practicing."
Now Weber State gets three games at home, starting with Utah Valley on Dec. 5.