Rahe wants team more aggressive for final week of league play

Mar 4 2013 - 3:34pm

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Roy Burton
Roy Burton

Weber State players are constantly taught to focus only on the game at hand.

Last Saturday, with their improbable overtime comeback win against Northern Arizona still just a glimmer of a possibility, the Wildcats broke it down one step further.

"I just tried to gather everybody and say, 'One play at a time,'" senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth said. "We want to get a score, a stop, a foul ... if they miss a free throw, make sure you get the rebound, just take it one play at a time."

As the Lumberjacks went up by seven points with just over a minute to go, there seemed to be little hope for the Wildcats to salvage their winning streak, let alone their chance to keep the pressure on first-place Montana going into the final week of the Big Sky Conference regular season.

Bamforth said the Wildcats refused to think negatively when NAU appeared to have locked up its first win over Weber State in 10 tries.

"It's hard looking from the outside, like how would you guys not know you're going to lose, but in our huddles, in everything, we just believed that somehow, it was going to come out in a good way," he said. "We never once looked at each other and thought we were going to lose or nothing, we just took it one play at a time. Somehow we made some plays and we came out (with a win)."

Making plays was the opposite of how Weber State started the second half.

WSU coach Randy Rahe hardly recognized his team, ranked first in the country in field goal shooting and 3-point percentage.

"Terrible. We played awful. It all came down to, they got really aggressive and we got totally unaggressive. They played that zone -- and we've been playing really good against zones -- and we decided to stand around and not drive the ball and we got really, really stagnant.

"It was probably as unaggressive as I've seen our team since maybe November, December. We're usually on the attack and for some reason, we got in that mode."

That ended in the final minute as junior forward Davion Berry went right at the NAU defense.

Berry's tenacity sparked a series of plays where several Wildcats who hadn't been a major factor in the game to that point made significant contributions that tilted the balance in Weber State's favor.

"A lot of guys made huge plays. Small plays, but big plays," Rahe said. "(Kyle) Tresnak's offensive rebound when he saved the ball and threw it back in was one of the biggest plays of the game. Gelaun (Wheelwright's) five points right there toward the end of regulation were absolutely huge. James Hajek came in, he got us three rebounds. Byron Fulton got three rebounds in 12 minutes, hasn't been playing at all, and still contributed. That's what you've got to have when you have games like this. Tresnak's in foul trouble, we're not clicking on all cylinders, other guys have got to step up and do their part, make winning plays. We had guys make winning plays."

Berry scored five points in overtime to tie his career high with 25, Bamforth and Jordan Richardson each hit important 3s and Tresnak grabbed a rebound to save possession for Weber State. NAU was forced to foul Berry with 11 seconds to go and he made both free throws to give the Wildcats a four-point margin.

That made DeWayne Russell's layup for Northern Arizona with four seconds left irrelevant as WSU escaped with an 80-78 victory, their ninth straight.

"The biggest reason we pulled it out is because the kids wouldn't quit," Rahe said. "They kept believing and they kept saying we can find a way. We had great leadership, from Scott, from Dev, from (Frank Otis). They kept saying let's go find a way and get a break."

The real significance of Saturday's comeback win is yet to be determined.

If Montana wins out to hold on to first place and the right to host the Big Sky Tourney, the game becomes nothing more than a confidence builder for the Wildcats.

After Montana defeated in-state rival Montana State without its two best players last Saturday, a Griz loss seems unlikely, though they have three games this week, starting at Southern Utah tonight.

Weber State faces Portland State and Eastern Washington at home this week, but the Wildcats' hope of claiming the regular season title is slim.

Still just a glimmer of a possibility ...

 

Wildcat Club

Weber State's Wildcat Club luncheon will be held today at noon at the Ogden Marriott Hotel on 24th Street. The luncheons are open to the public; cost is $10 per person.

Weber State's athletic department and the Wildcat Club are also planning a celebration this Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, to honor the 50th anniversary of Division I basketball at the school. The Wildcats' 50 greatest players of the past 50 years will be named.

For more information, call the Wildcat Club at 801-626-6576 or visit weberstatesports.com.

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