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Weber State basketball: Wildcats pick apart Montana in 93-63 thrashing to open Big Sky play

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Dec 28, 2023
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Weber State's Blaise Threatt (0) shoots over Montana's Te'Jon Sawyer (32) on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Ogden.
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Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) drives against Montana's Giordan Williams on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Ogden.
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Weber State's KJ Cunningham, left, drives past Montana's Josh Vazquez on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Ogden.

OGDEN — Thursday night’s Big Sky opener felt exactly like a midseason conference game in the early going.

Weber State and Montana slogged their way through a 9-9 start in the first nine minutes of the game, seemingly locked in a 40-minute slugfest to open the league ledger.

One play changed it all.

With four NBA scouts and one national media draft analyst looking on, WSU star forward Dillon Jones had an entry pass from the perimeter poked away by the taller Dischon Thomas. Montana reserve guard Chase Henderson corralled the deflection and the 6-foot speedster fled the other way.

Jones, at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, didn’t quit on the play. Far from it: he chased down Henderson and spiked his layup attempt off the backboard. The ball went the other way with WSU guard KJ Cunningham who, after probing near the paint, pitched it back to Jones on the perimeter.

Jones splashed a deep 3-pointer, the crowd of 5,095 fans roared, and, in the space of 13 seconds, the game had changed.

Weber State scored 35 points in the final 11 minutes of the first half and ran Montana off the court, sprinting to a 93-63 victory at the Dee Events Center.

“You’re going to have shooting nights like this,” said Jones, who finished 4 of 14 from the field. “The easiest way to get back in a game is to make a good defensive play … that was just the opportunity that presented itself and, I might not have 10 blocks in my whole career … I was just trying to make a play to get myself back in the game and it helped the team.”

(For the record, it was his sixth career block.)

Five Wildcats scored in double figures, Weber State shot 9 of 12 (75%) from the 3-point line and outscored Montana in the paint 42-30. The Griz, meanwhile, shot 3 of 20 from downtown and struggled without freshman guard Money Williams, the 14-points-per-game-scorer who did not dress for the game after starting the last five for Montana.

It’s Weber State’s only victory by 30 or more points over Montana in 53 years, the largest margin since beating the Griz 104-61 in 1970.

It’s also the first time Weber State shot 70% or better from the 3-point line against a Division I opponent since going 12 of 17 (70.6%) at Southern Utah in 2018 and its best 3-point performance against a Division I foe since 2005 (14 of 19, 73.7%, against Northern Arizona).

Five Wildcats scored in double figures, led by junior guard Blaise Threatt tying his season-high with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. WSU simply drove past Montana’s guards and opened up the court for most of the night, scoring 84 points on 28-of-41 shooting in the final 30 minutes.

“Me and (Steven Verplancken) saw early that there wasn’t much rotation … I didn’t really see a lot of secondary defenders,” Threatt said about facing Montana’s defense. “So I knew coming off screens to be aggressive because the two-on-one felt open every time we turned the corner … it was our world, and we just had to make one right decision.”

Jones finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists; the throwaway that led to the block-and-3 sequence was his only turnover of the night.

Jones passed Jermaine Boyette and moved into ninth all-time at WSU with 297 assists. He’s eight assists away from moving to sixth place, while also needing three more rebounds to pass Jimmie Watts for third on the all-time leaderboard.

Dyson Koehler totaled 15 points and seven rebounds, Steven Verplancken Jr. scored 15 points, and Viljami Vartiainen added 11 points off the bench for Weber State (8-4, 1-0 Big Sky). KJ Cunningham added nine points and three assists.

For Montana (7-5, 0-1 Big Sky), backup forward Te’Jon Sawyer scored 13 points by shooting 9 of 10 at the foul line. Seventh-year guard Aanen Moody scored a couple of late buckets to reach 11 points and Thomas added 11 points, shooting 5 of 8 on two-pointers.

Koehler and Verplancken hit 3s on consecutive possessions to start pulling way, making it 28-16 with 5:42 left in the first half and forcing a Montana timeout. Another Koehler 3 brought another Montana timeout at the 2:57 mark with the score 37-22, and WSU took a 44-28 lead into halftime.

Vartiainen hit a 3 on a dish from Jones to make it 57-36 with 13:33 left in the game and the rest played itself out.

WSU next hosts Montana State at 2 p.m. Saturday; the Bobcats outlasted Idaho State 74-66 in Pocatello.

“They’re looking to go 2-0 on the weekend so, we celebrate tonight because we have to know coming back tomorrow that we have to be locked in with the game plan and come back Saturday with the same energy,” Threatt said.


Eastern Washington 91, Portland State 57

Montana State 74, Idaho State 66

Idaho 61, Sacramento State 58


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