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Weber State basketball hits rematches with Idaho State; women look to rebound, men to press the gas

By Brett Hein - | Jan 19, 2022

ROBERT CASEY, Weber State Athletics

Weber State guard JJ Overton (24) slices to the hoop past Idaho State's Malike Porter (3) in a game Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Pocatello, Idaho.

The close geographical pairing of Weber State and Idaho State means that, in a 20-game conference slate, schedule-makers will pit the two “travel partners” against each other on dates that make the schedule work in an 11-team conference.

So, the Wildcat basketball teams face off against the Bengals for the second time in league play Thursday before having played several other Big Sky teams once.

For the Weber State women’s team, it’s a rematch from 12 days ago. For the men, because of a COVID-19 postponement, it’s a rematch from three days ago.

The WSU women (7-9, 3-4 Big Sky) are on a three-game skid that started Jan. 8 with a heartbreaking home loss to the second-place Bengals (10-6, 6-1). The Wildcats led down the stretch but ultimately lost 67-66 when Montana Oltrogge hit a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.

At the time, WSU was a couple plays away from being 5-0 in league play. As it is, the WIldcat women do seem leaps and bounds improved from the last two seasons, but hitting the road and losing to Idaho and Eastern Washington (a combined 4-8 in Big Sky play), including EWU’s first Division I win of the season, shows Weber State is in for a battle to stay in the league’s top half and perhaps fight for a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

“You saw when we played Idaho State, that’s a one-possession game. We have them coming up again on Thursday and we’re so fired up and excited. That’s a team that went (22-4) last year and went to the NCAA Tournament,” WSU women’s assistant Amy Donovan said on Tuesdsay’s monthly WSU radio show.

“We have eight newcomers, but when you look at the core of our roster, our starting five is the same as last year. So I think it’s been a group that has been really, one through 15, they’re hungry,” she continued. “Every single day, we’re seeing this group get better and better. I think the sky is the limit for that.”

The women’s game tips off at 7 p.m. in Pocatello and will stream on ESPN+.

On the men’s side, Weber State (12-5, 5-1 Big Sky) looks to stick in first place with a Monday-Thursday turnaround reminiscent of the same-week series Big Sky teams played last season — a series WSU and Idaho State (3-12, 1-5) did not play last year due to COVID-19 issues with the Bengals.

Monday’s 78-61 WSU victory in Pocatello was tied 30-30 at halftime after Idaho State grabbed eight offensive rebounds for 10 second-chance points. In the second half, WSU rebounded so well that it won the overall margin and raced to a 48-31 scoring advantage.

“We needed to be a little tougher rebounding. Idaho State is a very physical team,” wing JJ Overton said Tuesday. “It’s going to be another dogfight for sure.”

Koby McEwen and Seikou Sisoho Jawara each scored 23 points and combined to shoot 9 of 16 from the 3-point line, plenty enough to lift WSU in the second half. Other Wildcats shot 0 of 10 from deep, though overall, WSU was 17 of 28 on 2-pointers.

On the other side, Tarik Cool shot 7 of 14 for ISU and everyone else was 14 of 47. In the early-going, WSU has the best shooting-percentage defense and best turnover-rate defense in Big Sky games.

That rematch tips at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Dee Events Center. It will stream on ESPN+, with a radio call on 103.1 FM.

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