Weber State men’s basketball preps for Dixon, high-scoring Idaho
Idaho men’s basketball is 1-10 against Division I opponents this season so, on the surface, the Vandals look much like the program that is 2-31 against DI opponents over the last two seasons.
But a closer look reveals a much different team the Vandals (3-10, 0-3 Big Sky) have from last season that they’ll bring to Ogden to face Weber State (10-5, 3-1) on Thursday.
That difference is almost entirely on the offensive end of the floor, and it begins with senior guard Mikey Dixon, a transfer from Grand Canyon, who leads the league in per-game scoring average in conference games.
Dixon netted 25.3 points per game in three conference losses. For the season, he’s at 17.5 points per game. Only four players in the country draw more fouls than Dixon, and only 16 get to the free-throw line in a higher percentage of possessions used. And he’s a 90% free-throw shooter while shooting 47% from deep. In his last two conference games, Dixon shot 25 of 26 from the foul line — high attempt rate, high conversion rate.
Dixon’s season high is 35 points in a win over a good South Dakota State team, shooting 5 of 7 from deep and 16 of 16 from the free-throw line. And it’s that game, their lone DI win, that helps paint the picture of who Idaho is.
Idaho raced to a 98-84 win over an SDSU team that is now 13-4 and rates 90th in the NCAA NET ranking. Most recently, the Vandals pushed Eastern Washington in a 96-93 loss. They also stuck with it in a slog against Fresno State to lose 69-62 and challenged Southern Utah in an 81-75 loss.
In other words, when things go well — or if a defense like Weber State’s, which has had difficulty guarding the 3-point line, can’t contain the Vandals — Idaho can put up points. They shoot the ball well, get to the line, and take care of the ball relatively well.
But, the Vandals are still struggling to win largely because they are bad defensively. Teams generally shoot very well against Idaho, get to the free-throw line a lot, and get to the rim a lot (opponents shoot 55.5% on 2-pointers against Idaho) and don’t give up many turnovers. That doesn’t bode well when facing a Weber State team that gets to the rim, to the line a lot (18th nationally in free-throw rate), and takes care of the basketball (54th in turnover rate).
The only spot where Vandals do OK is defending the 3-point line, giving up a modest percentage but limiting opponents to few attempts (only four teams in the country give up less 3-point attempts as a percentage of total field-goal attempts).
So, despite an offense that can come alive, Idaho also has losses of 83-45 to Utah Valley, 109-61 to Washington, and 92-72 to Montana State.
Weber State is looking to sure up its 3-point defense after losing by two at Montana in a game the Griz shot 10 of 19 from deep. Koby McEwen averaged 27.5 points per game in the two-game Montana trip, and the Wildcats are back in action for the first time since Jan. 1.
Thursday’s game tips off at 7 p.m. in the Dee Events Center. WSU has advertised buy-one-get-one-free tickets on social media. The video broadcast is carried on the ESPN+ subscription service with Tony Parks and Joe Cravens on the call. The radio broadcast on 103.1 FM will be called by Steve Klauke and David Patten.
WOMEN AT IDAHO
The Weber State women (7-7, 3-2 Big Sky) hit the road after six straight home games and face Idaho (2-10, 1-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN+. The Vandals have struggled compared to seasons past but most recently hammered Eastern Washington 63-42. Guards Louise Forsyth (12 points per game) and Sydney Gandy (10.3 ppg) lead Idaho in scoring.
The road trip is another chance for a resurgent Weber State team to take a big step forward, as the Wildcats will leave Idaho and trip a few miles to Eastern Washington (2-10, 0-3) for a game at 3 p.m. Saturday. EWU is winless against Division I teams.