GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Weber State has never lost three conference games in a row under seventh-year head coach Randy Rahe.
The Wildcats weren’t about to change that Thursday at the Sioux Center.
WSU defeated North Dakota 66-51 behind 21 points from junior forward Davion Berry. Senior forward Frank “Mook” Otis set a career-high in scoring for the second straight game with 20 points and added a season-high 12 rebounds as Weber State snapped its two-game losing streak “We needed to get one,” Rahe said. “We had a tough trip (to Montana), we lost two close ballgames and kind of felt like we kind of gave it to them, both of them. It was a bad feeling. When you get done with that trip, you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth. If nothing else, we just needed to fight (Thursday). That was our whole motto. We’ve got to fight, we’ve got to man up. It’s time. We’ve got to find a way, no matter what it is, we’ve got to try to find a way. I was really proud of our kids because they responded to that really well.”
North Dakota (8-12, 5-6) came in to the game on a hot streak as the winner of four of its last five, but Weber State cooled UND down like the negative-15 degree temperatures and negative-30 degree wind chill outside the Sioux Center.
The Wildcats were happy to be back in the win column.
“We needed that for confidence sake,” Berry said. “We have confidence but it’s always good to get a win on the road and keep the confidence up.”
Junior guard Josh Schuler was the only North Dakota player in double figures as the Wildcats held UND to 36.7 percent shooting. WSU also outrebounded North Dakota by 12 boards, 40-28.
Schuler buried a 3 and was fouled for an “old-fashioned” four-point play as UND cut a double-digit WSU lead down to five midway through the second half, but Berry answered with a 3 of his own and Otis scored four straight points while the Wildcats remained in command the rest of the way.
Otis got rolling early, attacking the basket with a variety of up-and-unders. He scored WSU’s first six points as Weber State went after UND, which played small ball with a four-guard lineup.
“He’s playing at a slow pace,” Rahe said of Otis’ success in the past two games. “Frank gets in trouble when he plays too fast, he’s catching it, he’s playing slower, he’s making a read and then he’s getting to a shot. Tonight they had (6-2 guard) Shuler on him, so he was playing with a mismatch and we wanted to go there really hard.”
Weber State had enough firepower to overcome foul trouble with its post players.
“They get to the foul line a lot. Anderson leads the league in foul attempts and Huff is right there with him. They get off those ball screens and they drive it, they are fearless and they put a lot of pressure on you. So that four-guard lineup has something to do with it because they’ve got an extra guy that can go bounce it at you,” Rahe said.
The danger cut both ways for UND.
“If you’re going to play it on one end, you’ve got to take advantage of it on the other end. We weren’t going to adjust our lineup, we were going to try to guard it and then we were going to take advantage of trying to throw the ball inside and working against their smaller guys,” Rahe said.
Freshman forward Joel Bolomboy also took advantage, scoring nine points off the bench to go with nine rebounds.
North Dakota junior guard Troy Huff, who entered the game as the Big Sky’s leading scorer in conference games (20.1 ppg), scored his first basket on a tip-in with under four minutes left in the first half and finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Aaron Anderson, who scored 23 points against the ’Cats in Ogden, also ended up with seven points.
The Wildcats now travel to Greeley, Colo., to face Northern Colorado on Saturday to wrap up their four-game road stretch.