Weber State men’s basketball returns to court, handles Idaho 84-74
OGDEN — After 11 days off due to COVID-19 postponements from other Big Sky teams, and with three weeks between home games, Weber State men’s basketball returned to the court at the Dee Events Center on Thursday night and, for the most part, did what it wanted to do in a matchup against Idaho.
Koby McEwen cleaned up his own miss at the halftime buzzer to go up 11 and the Wildcats never led by less than 10 from there, defeating Idaho 84-74 to resume Big Sky Conference play.
McEwen’s bucket was part of a rally for Weber State (11-5, 4-1 Big Sky) that reached 23-9 on the other side of halftime and, when Seikou Sisoho Jawara converted a driving bucket with 11 minutes left, WSU led 53-35.
The Wildcats forced 19 turnovers from Idaho (3-11, 0-4) and held Mikey Dixon and company in check until the final few minutes.
“I was a little concerned after having 11 days off about being rusty and out of rhythm, WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, but we had some rhythm issues and just getting back comfortable playing a game. We got through that and got going pretty good in the second half.
“I was really pleased with our defense. After our first five minutes of the first half and all the way through to the very end when we took our foot off the pedal — and I didn’t like that at all — but we’ll learn from that.”
Dixon did score 19 to lead all scorers, but did so on a 6-of-16 shooting clip and attempted just six free throws. Coming into the game as the fifth-best creator of fouls in the country, Dixon drew only three fouls in 31 minutes as WSU guards stayed home on driving pump fakes and big men challenged him mostly while maintaining legal verticality.
Sisoho Jawara and JJ Overton co-led Weber State with 18 points apiece — though Overton’s 4-of-9 mark from the foul line was the first thing he noticed looking at the box score after the game.
“My dad’s going to kill me,” Overton quipped. WSU was 20 of 28 from the free-throw line.
Those two led five players in double figures, with McEwen adding 12 points, and Dillon Jones and Dyson Koehler chipping in 11 points.
Jones led WSU with eight rebounds and four steals, and McEwen dished four assists.
Nolan Bertain got loose for a pair of 3-pointers in the second half and helped Idaho cut it to 57-46 with 8:20 left. But Koehler answered with one of just six WSU 3-pointers, draining a trey from the corner while getting bowled over. He made his free throw to make the score 62-46.
One key development came at the center spot for Weber State. Big men Michal Kozak, Alex Tew and David Nzekwesi were all out due to health protocols, so senior Dontay Bassett got his first start of the season. He played 17 minutes, totaling two points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
Despite those held out due to health protocols, Rahe indicated Bassett had earned the start anyway and said he’ll start him again next week.
“He’s gotten himself in better shape, his body was banged up for a while. Now he feels better and he had two good weeks of practice. We’ve been searching at that position a little bit, and he’s earned the right to start,” Rahe said. “I liked what he did defensively, being big, took two charges. He’s a tough kid. I told him to focus on defense and rebounding, and the offense is going to come eventually.
“I think as we move along, he’ll get more comfortable offensively and we can go to him a little bit more.”
Bassett was plus-10 in the plus-minus ledger Thursday night, second for WSU behind Sisoho Jawara’s plus-16.
“We come work out — and I get up pretty early — and every time I’m here, (Bassett is) here, working. Never complained,” Overton said. “For him to come in and contribute the way he did so fast, that’s hard to do. We’re all happy he got his time, it only makes us all better.”
Zahir Porter pitched in eight points off the bench, and Cody Carlson added four points and a steal in nine minutes, hampered by first-half foul trouble.
Rashad Smith added 13 points for Idaho, which shot 50% overall and from 3 in the second half after WSU held the Vandals to 37% in both areas in the first half.
The game was the only one in action for Big Sky men’s basketball Thursday, with two games elsewhere postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Weber State is next in action Monday, Jan. 17, at Idaho State, then hosts the Bengals on Thursday, Jan. 20.
IDAHO 62, WSU 41
Weber State women’s basketball struggled offensively from the get-go, scoring just 14 first-half points on the way to a lopsided road loss at Idaho (3-11, 2-2 Big Sky).
Weber State (7-8, 3-3) shot just 12 of 49 and committed 18 turnovers. Kori Pentzer was the lone Wildcat in double figures, scoring 13 points. Jadyn Matthews pulled down 14 rebounds.
WSU next plays at Eastern Washington, tipping at 3 p.m. Saturday.
MCEWEN NAMED TO WATCHLIST
WSU men’s senior guard Koby McEwen was named Thursday to the midseason watchlist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year, which is awarded annually to the best mid-major player in Division I men’s basketball.
McEwen is one of 41 players on the list, including one of two from the Big Sky Conference (with Southern Utah’s Tevian Jones). Through the first 15 games of the season, McEwen is sixth in the Big Sky in scoring at 17.5 points per game.