SACRAMENTO, Calif. — No team in the nation is better at making shots than Weber State right now.
There are no longshots with this team, no shots in the dark; when a field goal attempt goes up, the Wildcats expect it to go in.
WSU is ranked No. 1 in the country in both overall field goal percentage (.514) and 3-point percentage (.428).
The Wildcats (20-5, 14-2 Big Sky) have shot better than 50 percent in five of their last six games, a significant factor in their seven-game winning streak. Meanwhile, the ’Cats’ second-place standing in the Big Sky Conference has league foes lining up to take shots at them.
Sac State is next in line today at 8 p.m. at the Hornets Nest.
Weber State has won 11 in a row against Sac State, including a 65-56 victory on Jan. 19 in Ogden, but ’Cats coach Randy Rahe calls this year’s version of the Hornets the best team fifth-year coach Brian Katz has had.
Sacramento State (13-12, 7-9) has lost four Big Sky games this season by only one point.
“They could easily have 10 or 11 wins right now, had things turned out a little different,” Rahe said.
Sac State’s offense is keyed by sophomore point guard Dylan Garrity, who leads the Big Sky in assists (5.2 apg).
“The ball’s in his hands a lot,” Rahe said. “He plays off ball screens really well. He’s kind of the straw that stirs the pot for them, no question about it.”
Garrity directs an attack with four players averaging double figures: forward John Dickson (13.2 ppg), guard Mikh McKinney (12.9 ppg), center Konnor Veteto (10.7 ppg) and himself (11.7 ppg).
Weber State’s offense, the No. 1 scoring offense in the Big Sky (76.1 ppg), is Rahe’s version of the system developed by Utah State coach Stew Morrill when Rahe was his assistant at Colorado State.
It’s a system with a high number of set plays that develops into a motion offense later in the shot clock — one that consistently has USU and WSU ranked among the national leaders in shooting percentage. Despite the loss of key players to injury this season, Morrill’s Utah State currently ranks 20th in the country at 47.7 percent.
“It’s designed basically to take advantage of who’s playing well We run sets for certain guys, if someone’s playing well, we’ve got sets where we can take advantage of everybody on our team and get them a shot where they’re comfortable getting a shot,” Rahe said. “Really, what it comes down to is your team and how unselfish they are. We really emphasize shot selection.
“We’re not going to take contested shots. We take pride in making the extra pass. We talk about, we want to plant the ball as close to the basket as we can, so we throw it inside a lot. It comes down to guys being willing to turn down an average shot to get a really good shot.”
Good shots naturally lead to a good shooting percentage.
WSU assistant coach Eric Duft is the one calling the shots, as it were, sending in plays by flashcard.
“Eric does a great job of being our offensive coordinator, calling the plays,” Rahe said. “I’ll tell him what I want called at certain times, but Eric has the freedom to call sets and I have great confidence in him. He’s got a good feel.”
Senior forward Frank “Mook” Otis, who leads the conference in field goal percentage (.682), said the key to WSU’s efficiency is not trying to force shots.
Rahe also demands the Wildcats play at a high pace, with hard cuts and screens to free shooters and get them the ball with precision timing.
“It has a lot to do with the way we run it,” Otis said. “You can scout something as hard as you want to, but you still have to be able to guard it. People can’t guard it because of our pace, the way we execute.”
It’s simple to junior point guard Jordan Richardson, who is second in the Big Sky in 3-point percentage (.465).
“We just pride ourselves on taking good shots,” he said. “We have great teammates that find the open man at all times. We have teammates that get extra work in, after practice and before practice. It just pays off in the games.”
Weber State is efficient defensively as well, ranked first in the Big Sky in scoring defense (61.1 ppg).
That combination of offensive and defensive proficiency has Weber State ranked fifth in the country in UPS Team Performance Index, a stat designed to measure well-balanced teams.