OGDEN -- Hanging on to a two-point lead with just over three minutes remaining, the Wildcats cranked up their defense and closed the door on the swarming Hornets.
Scott Bamforth scored 18 points and Weber State held off Sacramento State for a 65-56 win Saturday at the Dee Events Center for WSU's ninth straight win.
Sac State sophomore point guard Dylan Garrity dropped in a game-high 20 points and scored the Hornets' final 10 points, but after a Garrity jumper made it 56-54 with 3:21 remaining, the Wildcats forced a series of turnovers and kept him from scoring again until a meaningless layup with eight seconds left in the game.
Weber State (13-3, 8-0 Big Sky) remained perfect in conference play. Bamforth, the senior guard from Albuquerque, N.M., went 4 for 8 from beyond the arc and had seven rebounds, junior center Kyle Tresnak added 15 points and eight boards and senior forward Frank "Mook" Otis contributed 12 points and seven boards.
Man-mountain Konner Veteto, a 6-foot-8, 290 pound senior center, added 16 points for Sacramento State (8-8, 3-5), but the Wildcats limited the Hornets' leading scorer, John Dickson, to nine.
The game was about what Weber State coach Randy Rahe expected, "a really tough, physical, grind-it-out affair," he said. "That's kind of how Sacramento State plays. I knew we were going to have to hang in there, find a way and fight like crazy."
Bamforth buried a trio of treys midway through the second half to give Weber State its largest lead to that point at 50-40, but Dickson finally came to life for the Hornets, with a spinning layup for an and-1 and a dunk off a steal and Mikh McKinney added another and-1 as Sac State cut the lead to two, 50-48.
After the teams traded buckets and a pair of turnovers, Garrity missed a point-blank layup that Bamforth rebounded. Davion Berry, who finished with just three points, found Jordan Richardson for the biggest basket of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner that put Weber State up by seven with 1:40 to go.
Then the Wildcats took their turn taking the ball away from the Hornets -- Bamforth had a steal, Tresnak blocked Veteto at the rim, got an offensive rebound at the other end and Sac State had to put Bamforth, the leading free throw shooter in the nation by percentage, on the line with 34 seconds to go. Bamforth made both, freshman forward Joel Bolomboy blocked a Garrity layup and Otis scored as Weber State sealed the deal for its 13th consecutive conference home win.
"We made a little push and they cut it back to two, we got some stops," Bamforth said. "We knew that was the only way we could win. We did a great job. They kind of hurt us on the ballscreens a little bit, but we figured it out in the end and got some stops."
Rahe said the Wildcats' defense improved as the game went on; the Hornets' field goal percentage dropped from 46.4 percent before the break to 32.3 percent in the second half.
"When the ballgame gets down to a two-point game and it's on the line -- and we'd made some turnovers to get it to that point -- you can do two things," Rahe said. "You can give in or you can get tougher and fight. I thought our guys did that. We made plays at the end that we needed to make."
Both teams shot 46.4 percent from the floor in the first half. The Wildcats led by as many as seven after starting the game with a 5-0 deficit, but Veteto went to work in the paint late in the half and Joe Eberhard buried a 3 a few seconds before the buzzer to cut WSU's lead to a Ron McBride-like score of 34-31.
Weber State's toughest stretch of the Big Sky season is coming up next: Four consecutive road games at Montana State, Montana, North Dakota and Northern Colorado.