Weber State women’s basketball opens season with convincing win over North Dakota
OGDEN — Weber State women’s basketball team started its season-opener with a big run to take a 26-14 lead over North Dakota after one quarter Tuesday evening.
That type of spurt wasn’t uncommon in last year’s struggle to 2-20, but what was uncommon was what the Wildcats did over the final three quarters.
WSU maintained defensive pressure throughout, crashed the offensive glass and never let the lead get any smaller than eight points on the way to a 72-57 victory at the Dee Events Center.
In a matchup of teams trying desperately to jumpstart their programs after two-win seasons a year ago, the Wildcats made an impressive opening salvo.
“My favorite part tonight that I haven’t seen with teams previously was we went on a little spell where we were in a little slump, and we didn’t stop fighting,” junior forward Jadyn Matthews said. “I think before, we didn’t have that attack mindset and I think we stayed on it the whole game. That’s what I enjoyed playing the game tonight.”
Junior center Emma Torbert put in two of her game-high 18 points to open the third quarter and give Weber State its largest lead of the night, a 45-27 advantage.
The Hawks made a run and converted a rebound for a putback as the third-quarter clock expired to make the score 53-44.
That’s when junior wing Ava Williams put her stamp on the game. The Colgate transfer grabbed four rebounds in the space of a couple minutes, three of them on the offensive end, and scored four points for the Wildcats on second-chance opportunities.
That run pushed Weber State’s lead back into the range it spent most of the night, at 59-46.
“I think we all have a little chip on our shoulder so that helps going into games and going into situations where we need people to step up,” Matthews said. “We can all rely on each other because we all know we’re going to play hard, and play the roles we need people to play.”
It was Matthews providing the spark late in the fourth after North Dakota again cut the deficit to single digits. She battled inside and converted a pair of free throws, then followed a miss from Kori Pentzer on a fast break and put it in to make it 63-50.
Despite a pair of consecutive 3-pointers from the Hawks, Weber State salted the game away easily and finished 18 of 20 from the free-throw line.
Fourth-year head coach Velaida Harris credited Torbert, Pentzer and Daryn Hickok for good individual efforts and saw the type of defense she hoped for when building the team: pressuring the ball, playing the gaps, and lots of help.
“Our identity has to be on the defensive end,” Harris said.
Torbert added three steals to her game-high 18 points. Matthews totaled 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Hickok added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Pentzer scored all nine of her points early to key the early surge.
Williams added four points and six rebounds off the bench, and junior-college transfer Laura Taylor pitched in five points and three rebounds.
WSU shot 21 of 42 on 2-pointers.
The Wildcats hit the road for their next two games, playing at Portland on Saturday and tripping to Texas Tech on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics Weber State’s Daryn Hickok (21) drives the lane against North Dakota’s Melissa Leet (5) during a season-opening game Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.