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Weber State basketball: Dillon Jones impresses again, defense controls 76-60 win over Northern Arizona

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Dec 31, 2022
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Weber State forward Dillon Jones (2) rises for a layup against Northern Arizona on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State center Alex Tew, middle, fights with Northern Arizona's Jack Wistrcill, left, for the ball on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State forward Dillon Jones (2) hammers a dunk as Northern Arizona's Trenton McLaughlin (24) flies by on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State guard Junior Ballard (24) leans to flip a shot over Northern Arizona center Carson Towt on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State forward Daniel Rouzan, middle, scores past Northern Arizona players Nik Mains (20) and Oakland Fort (4) on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State guard Junior Ballard (24) scoops a layup against Northern Arizona on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN — After Dillon Jones posted a 26-point, 13-rebound night Thursday in a win over Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona was determined not to let the third-year Weber State star get the ball Saturday afternoon at the Dee Events Center.

Five minutes into the second half, NAU got three players loose for 3-pointers to break a 1-of-8 stretch from deep and take a 43-41 lead when Nik Mains hit a triple. WSU assistant coach Jorge Ruiz said something to Jones about not giving a second effort during the next play.

“I was like ‘second effort?’ I’m grabbing every rebound, what do you mean second effort?'” Jones said. “He kind of said it slick because he knew it would rub me wrong … so it was like, ‘alright.'”

The next time Jones touched the ball, he picked a steal near midcourt and raced to an emphatic hammer dunk that gave Weber State a 44-43 lead — his first points of the game.

Jones asserted himself as one of the best players in the country despite NAU’s efforts — finishing with nine points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and four steals — and his steal-and-dunk sparked what became an extended 29-11 run as Weber State pulled away for a 76-60 win.

Jones only attempted four field goals and still controlled the contest. He drew eight fouls, and his 15 rebounds pushed his defensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs while on the court) to 33%, which — at 6-foot-6 — makes Jones the No. 1 defensive rebounder in the country.

“I wasn’t going to try to fight the game and try to score when it’s obvious they’re keying on me. That would be very selfish of me,” Jones said. “I just tried to silently put myself in the position where I’m the tag so if my guy isn’t going to help off me, the roller’s open or the guard’s open. If they’re literally going to deny me, I’m going to stand at damn-near halfcourt and they’re playing four on four, more space. I was just trying to manipulate the game like that.”

Jones totaled all nine of his points and all four steals in the second half. He followed his steal and dunk by dusting a defender on the perimeter and driving to an old-fashioned three-point play.

“He’s really matured with his emotions, keeping those in check. Dillon’s his own worst critic, he’s really hard on himself,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “He’s growing up. He’s learned to handle some of that, when frustration steps in, to just lock in in the moment. … We’re all growing, and Dillon’s growing as well. Really proud of him.”

Jones averaged 17.5 points, 14 rebounds, 6.5 assists and two steals in two wins this week, seemingly making him a lock for conference player of the week.

Later in the second half, freshman center Daniel Rouzan scored on two smooth post moves, then KJ Cunningham and Junior Ballard hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. It was a 16-3 surge to end the rally — NAU didn’t score a field goal in that seven-minute stretch — and put the game away at 70-52.

The Wildcats are 2-0 to begin Big Sky play and held NAU to 12 points below its usual scoring average.

“It took us a bit to get into the fight (after the big win Thursday). We had some uncharacteristic missed assignments, not following the game plan,” Duft said. “But once we got that worked out, proud of our team. This is a high-scoring team. They went to Southern Utah and scored 101 points and we held them to 60 tonight. So overall, good effort.”

Weber State (7-8, 2-0 Big Sky) got sideways on some help defense early in each half that got Northern Arizona (4-11, 0-2) shooters free for open 3-point looks. The Lumberjacks started the game 5 of 6 from deep and led 27-19 with 8 minutes to go in the first half.

But Ballard dropped NAU guard Jalen Cone on a crossover for a layup, then hit two 3-pointers down the final stretch of the half to spark an 18-3 run that gave Weber State a 37-30 lead at halftime.

Ballard led WSU with 16 points and shot 4 of 6 from 3. Cunningham’s triple near the end of the second-half rally was the only other 3 the Wildcats made. Despite shooting 10 of 31 from behind the arc this week, WSU got up by at least 20 points in both games.

After NAU’s hot 5-of-6 start from the 3-point line, Weber made most looks much tougher and the Lumberjacks finished 4 of 14 from there.

“We really took control of the game with our defense, and that’s what we’re going to have to be,” Duft said. “We’re going to have success by defense and rebounding.”

Steven Verplancken Jr. was 0 of 4 from deep but 7 of 10 on two-pointers to score 14 points for Weber State. Alex Tew dunked home some important buckets and totaled nine points and seven rebounds. Zahir Porter scored nine points and Rouzan added eight. Weber State shot 24 of 34 (71%) on two-pointers and scored 48 points in the paint.

After being suppressed in the first half, Cone scored 10 points in the second half to lead NAU with 16. Mains added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Weber State next gets its light week early in the conference schedule and is off until Saturday, Jan. 7, when hosting Idaho State at home.

Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Eastern Washington is off to a surprise 2-0 start after sweeping the always-tough Montana road trip this week.

N. ARIZONA 82, WEBER STATE 68

Weber State women’s basketball led after one quarter but slowly lost touch Saturday at NAU.

Idaho State transfer Montana Oltrogge led NAU (7-8, 1-1 Big Sky) with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Lumberjacks made 10 3-pointers.

Weber State (4-10, 0-2) got a big 28-point, seven-rebound day from Daryn Hickok. Jadyn Matthews added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Emma Torbert scored 13 points.

The teams combined to shoot 59 of 71 from the free-throw line in a 54-foul whistle fest.

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