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Short segments doom Weber State men’s basketball at Tarleton State, 75-65

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Nov 29, 2022

Photo supplied, Tarleton State Athletics

Weber State center Daniel Rouzan, left, posts up against Tarleton State's Freddy Hicks (2) on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Stephenville, Texas.

Weber State men’s basketball’s long stretch away from home concluded Tuesday night in Stephenville, Texas, taking on a Tarleton State team that carried wins over Boston College and Belmont into the game.

The Wildcats answered runs from Tarleton State but lost touch late and the homestanding Texans prevailed 75-65.

“I think we made a big step forward in our resilience tonight, our physical toughness, our mental toughness,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “In Vegas, we let runs from other teams balloon on us and we kind of gave into it, and we didn’t do that tonight … we played hard and physical the entire night.”

Weber State (2-5) shot out of the gates to a 15-8 lead early, shooting 4 of 5 from behind the arc with a pair of 3s from Junior Ballard. But Tarleton State (4-3) came out of the under-12 media timeout and put a 15-0 run on the Wildcats before the under-8 break to take control and go up 35-28 at halftime.

The Wildcats turned the ball over 14 times in the first half against Tarleton’s high-pressure defense before settling down and turning it over eight times after halftime.

Photo supplied, Tarleton State Athletics

Weber State guard Junior Ballard (24) takes the ball up the court against Tarleton State on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Stephenville, Texas.

“This is going to be a game where nobody is going to feel like they played great. I told them going into it, it’s going to be more of a physical fight the way they play,” Duft said. “So we just have to battle through, we have to be competitive, we have to be emotionally stable. And I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight.”

Tarleton forced Weber into 27 fouls and shot 20 of 35 from the foul line, while WSU was 19 of 22 from the stripe.

That halftime lead grew to 45-33 with 15:46 left before Ballard jumpstarted a WSU 14-1 run with a 3-pointer. Alex Tew threw down an alley-oop from KJ Cunningham, and Cunningham — with a few dozen family and friends in attendance from 3 hours away in Bryan — finished the rally with a three-point play to put Weber up 47-46.

Then came the under-12 timeout and again, Tarleton State took control in that segment before the next media break. Javontae Hopkins and Coreyoun Rushin led the Texans on an 11-1 run in that frame to take back full control.

Weber’s last chance came on a sequence where Dyson Koehler missed an open corner 3 that would have made it a five-point game with 3 minutes left, and Rushin scored on a drive going the other way to make it 71-61.

WSU was 4 of 18 from deep after the 4-of-5 start, though Ballard broke out of a slump and scored 14 points on a 5-of-10 mark, including 4 of 7 from behind the arc. Dillon Jones led Weber with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while shooting 1 of 5 from deep and committing five turnovers.

Cunningham scored 10 points off the bench. Tew was plus-six in the plus-minus ledger with nine points and three rebounds but fouled out in 16 minutes of action.

Lue Williams led the Texans with 16 points and Freddy Hicks scored 14.

WSU returns home to face Utah Tech (3-4) on Saturday, its first home game in nearly four weeks.

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