Weber State basketball uses mid-game run to throttle UMass 88-73 to open Florida tournament
After a close win over Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Weber State men’s basketball tripped to St. Petersburg, Florida, for three games in the Jersey Mike’s Classic at Eckerd College.
A second-consecutive game against an Atlantic 10 opponent in Massachusetts — a consistently good team from a conference consistently, drastically better than the Big Sky — was expected to give the Wildcats a stiff challenge to open the multi-team event.
But from the four-minute mark of the first half, the Wildcats dropped the hammer on the Minutemen.
Weber State used a 24-6 run across both sides of halftime to take control and blister UMass in the second half to win 88-73 on Thursday evening.
JJ Overton scored from all areas of the court to lead five Weber State (3-0) double-figure scorers with 21 points. Seikou Sisoho Jawara dished nine assists and seven Wildcats tallied at least three rebounds.
UMass (2-2) shot an acceptable 45% from the field but was ice-cold from deep in the first half, and allowed WSU to convert 11 turnovers into 24 points.
Weber State shot 20 of 29 in the second half, won the battle in the paint 42-28, and scorched the nets by shooting 34 of 58 (58.6%) overall and 11 of 21 (52.4%) from deep.
“I thought we really guarded hard. And they’re a problem to guard, they’ve got good players, but I thought we guarded hard and we guarded smarter tonight,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “And offensively we really started to look like ourselves, or what we want to look like, with really better ball movement — 20 assists, only 11 turnovers, because that’s what our skill level puts us at. And I thought we really did a good job of that offensively, that ball was moving around really well.”
Overton scored 11 points in the first half to pace WSU in a mostly back-and-forth battle, including dropping in his first three 3-point attempts of the season. UMass built a 24-18 lead but a pair of Overton triples made it 27-26.
A 3-pointer from UMass big man Trent Buttrick — he was 3 of 5 from deep, the rest of his team 10 of 32 — and a Noah Fernandes steal and score put UMass up 32-26 with 4:15 left in the first half.
To that point, it looked like UMass could control the game and, while Weber kept it close, keep a small distance between them. But after Weber State called timeout, the game was drastically different.
Koby McEwen, Cody Carlson and Zahir Porter each hit 3-pointers down the stretch of the frame, the final one giving Weber a 36-34 halftime lead.
WSU opened the second half with separation on two Carlson paint buckets. Overton added three drive-and-score buckets, then knocked down an elbow jumper to put Weber State up 50-38 with 16:10 left — making a 24-6 WSU run.
“It was good to see him kind of get into some rhythm tonight. He was in a good rhythm,” Rahe said about Overton.
From there, every time UMass cut the deficit to single digits, either on a Buttrick 3 or any of Fernandes’ array of buckets — Fernandes scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, and Buttrick nine of his 12 — Weber State had an answer.
WSU pushed the margin from nine to 12 when Overton skipped a cross-court pass to Porter for a wing 3 with 11 minutes left, and backup center Alex Tew later grabbed an offensive rebound and flipped in a hook to make it 65-50.
Fernandes hit a 3 to cut it to 67-60, but Dillon Jones answered with six straight points and McEwen added a steal and transition layup — suddenly, it was 75-62 with 4:45 left.
One minute later, Weber closed the deal when Sisoho Jawara made his first 3 of the game, then Porter took a steal and raced downcourt, feeding Overton for an emphatic lob dunk to make it 82-64.
“(Sisoho Jawara) played a great floor game. He passed the heck out of it tonight,” Rahe said. “It was really fun because he’s got that capability, because he has such a good feel for the game.”
Overton added five rebounds to his 21 points. McEwen totaled 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jones added 15 points and five rebounds, and Porter chipped in 13 points and six rebounds.
“If we’re going to be really good, I tell those guards all the time, you’ve got to get five, six rebounds a game and make that your goal,” Rahe said. ” After we got outrebounded the other night, it was nice to come back and do a better job.”
Carlson added 11 points and three rebounds. Tew had three rebounds and dished two assists.
Weber State continues tournament play at 3:30 p.m. Friday by facing Ball State in a game that airs on CBS Sports Network.