Weber State gets back on track, cruises past Montana State

Feb 23 2014 - 3:46pm

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ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/CHRONICLE
Weber State center Kyle Tresnak controls the ball against Montana State forward Flavien Davis (0) and center Paul Egwuonwu during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Bozeman, Mont., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/CHRONICLE
Weber State center Kyle Tresnak controls the ball against Montana State forward Flavien Davis (0) and center Paul Egwuonwu during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Bozeman, Mont., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez | Staff Photographer
Bozeman Daily Chronicle

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Weber State may have been playing its fourth consecutive game on the road, but there was one road the Wildcats did not want to go down.

Weber State has never lost three straight Big Sky games under eighth-year coach Randy Rahe, a path it avoided by defeating Montana State 86-68 on Saturday at Worthington Arena.

After a couple of uncharacteristic defensive performances from the top-ranked defense in the league, the first-place Wildcats (15-9, 12-4 Big Sky) guarded the Bobcats well while getting a great offensive performance from their own guards.

Montana State (13-14, 8-8) tried to take away the inside game by double teams in the post, but WSU's guard line made the Bobcats pay from the perimeter.

Senior guard/forward Davion Berry dropped in 20 points, senior guard Jordan Richardson scored a season-high 19 points and freshmen guards Richaud Gittens and Jeremy Senglin contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Weber State.

"That was a great team win," Richardson said. "We needed that win. We locked up the defensive end and rebounding and that's how we got the win."

Berry, the second-leading scorer in conference games, reached the 20-point plateau for the 15th time this season. His first basket -- the first basket of the game -- also gave the senior from Oakland, Calif., another milestone, making him the 29th player in school history to reach 1,000 points, in his second season since transferring to WSU.

Weber State was anxious to end its two-game road skid and head home with a better outlook.

"That was a really good feeling because we've been fighting so hard the last couple games," Gittens said. "Idaho State, it was a tough one, we lost in overtime, and Montana, it was like it wasn't our team. Coach was like, I just want you to go out and have fun tonight. ... It felt like we were our old team again, having fun."

Part of the fun happened after the game, when Sacramento State knocked off Northern Colorado (16-9, 10-6) to get the Wildcats back to a two-game lead in the Big Sky standings over the Bears.

Weber State coach Randy Rahe said he was proud of the energy his players had in their third game this week and fourth straight on the road.

"It would have been easy for our kids to maybe give in a little bit and try to take it back to Ogden and see what happens," Rahe said. "We showed a lot of resolve, we showed a whole bunch of togetherness and a lot of toughness after playing three road games in a week and playing with that kind of energy and enthusiasm."

Weber State beat Montana State by nearly 30 points, 86-57, on Jan. 23 in Ogden; the Wildcats repeated their dominance by shutting down Montana State in the second half Saturday, limiting the Bobcats to 30.3 percent shooting from the field while knocking down 61.9 percent of their own shots in the half.

Overall, the gap was a little narrower, but WSU hit 10 of 17 from 3-point range (58.8 percent).

Weber State attacked Montana State's zone in the first half with effective backcourt play, getting a combined 34 points from its guards as it took a 39-30 lead.

"That's what you've got to do to hurt them," Rahe said. "Our post guys, after the first few minutes, they got the ball out clean out of the post, they made that extra pass and we got wide open looks. ... It was nice to see those 3s go in early to give us some confidence."

The Wildcats could have been up by 3 more had Berry's 40-footer at the halftime buzzer not rimmed out.

Sophomore forward Joel Bolomboy grabbed 11 rebounds for his 16th double-figure day on the boards for Weber State, which outrebounded Montana State 34-30.

Richardson, who set the Big Sky record Thursday for most career games played, credited his teammates for getting him open shots, which he knocked down with confidence on his best scoring night of the season, going 3 for 6 from deep and 6 for 10 from the field.

"Jordan's kind of always confident," Rahe said. "I love the kid because he believes he's really good and that's what gives him a chance to be successful. Me and him talked for a long time after the Montana game. I felt like he lost a little confidence and was wondering about himself, so we had a long chat and helped him figure some things out. He had a whole different look tonight than he did against Montana. He was confident, he was aggressive and I thought it started with his defense."

Contact reporter Roy Burton at rburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.

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