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Weber State basketball: Second-half surge falls short, hot-shooting Montana tops WSU 74-69

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Feb 11, 2023

Freddie Lacey, for Weber State Athletics

Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) scores against Montana's Dischon Thomas (24) on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN — Weber State men’s basketball tried its best to weather a storm of red-hot Montana shooting Saturday night.

Midway through the second half, UM forward Josh Bannan posted up late in the shot clock and was turned away, so he fired through the paint to the left wing where big man Dischon Thomas was waiting.

Thomas, who is now the sixth-best 3-pointer shooter in Big Sky Conference play, received the pass on one foot, flipped the ball to the hoop in half of a shooting motion, and found nothing but net.

WSU forward Dillon Jones threw up his hands as he ran back up the floor toward his head coach, Eric Duft, and Duft turned around with an incredulous half-smirk, half-sneer crossing his face.

It was that kind of night.

Montana finished 14 of 25 from the 3-point line and had just enough makes to hold off a huge Weber State rally down the stretch, claiming a 74-69 victory at the Dee Events Center.

The Griz have won five straight and are a half-game behind the Wildcats for third place.

“(Montana) played tremendously well tonight … they put you in some tough ways defensively,” Duft said. “But I was really proud of our guys’ effort. We’re coming off a tough stretch, four games in eight days, we’re playing guys a lot of minutes, (KJ Cunningham) is banged up, and we really fought to the end … we’ll get some rest and get moving forward.”

With Weber State (13-13, 8-5 Big Sky) struggling to score, Montana (14-12, 8-6) guard Aanen Moody hit another 3 not long after the absurd Thomas make to put the Griz up 58-42 with 8:40 to go.

Moody shot 5 of 10 from distance and led Montana with 23 points, adding six rebounds. He made a few open shots and shot confidently on contested makes, too, and seemed to be his team’s momentum-maker. Thomas had 14 points and Bannan, who committed eight turnovers, still contributed 11 rebounds and six assists with two points.

“We had a chance at it. I feel like we guarded decently but they still made the one-foot shots, they couldn’t miss,” WSU guard Steven Verplancken Jr. said. “Hats off to them, they made some shots and came ready to play. The most frustrating thing is giving one away at home.”

Just when Moody’s 3 seemed like all she wrote, WSU senior guard Zahir Porter breathed life into the Wildcats. In the space of 5 minutes, Porter cut and scored on a nice dish from Jones, drilled a stepback 3, drove to the rim for a bucket, dropped home a floater, then canned another stepback 3.

During that burst in which Porter scored 12 of his season-high 15 points, Jones peppered in a post move and corralled a rebound that led to a coast-to-coast drive.

After a Montana timeout, Jones drained his only 3 of the night, a straightaway triple, to cap a 22-6 run and make it 67-64 with 1:55 left.

Out of a Weber State timeout, Moody hit his final 3-pointer. Jones answered with a tough and-one drive to keep it a three-point game at 70-67.

Though Montana finished with a 52% shooting night, WSU got two consecutive stops just when they were needed most.

After the first stop, Porter had one last look at a huge bucket but, after getting a step on his defender to the hoop, tried to go under the rim for a reverse layup, was tripped up with 45 seconds left and missed the shot.

Junior Ballard then got a steal with 20 seconds left but, as Weber raced down the court, Ballard didn’t have an angle to the hoop and pulled back. Just as Ballard did that, a hustling Dyson Koehler inadvertently dislodged his teammate from the ball and, with 15 seconds left, WSU’s chances had run out.

Jones totaled 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Porter’s season-high 15 came two days after a season-high 13 in a win over Montana State; he shot 3 of 5 from distance and committed zero turnovers in 24 minutes.

Verplancken remained hot in the first half and finished with 14 points while shooting 2 of 4 from the 3-point line; he added three rebounds and two assists. Center Alex Tew scored 11 points.

Weber State next hits the road for its West Coast swing to Sacramento State and Portland State.

“We’ve got to stay together. A lot of teams fall apart at this time of year. I think we’re still good, we need to have high spirits,” Verplancken said. “We’ve got two weeks coming up that are huge for us.”


Weber State women’s basketball shot 0 of 10 from the 3-point line in the first half, fell behind 36-15 at the break and trailed from start to finish in a road defeat at Montana.

Weber State dropped to 0-12 in road games. The Wildcats (5-20, 1-12 Big Sky) got 10 points and six rebounds from Laura Taylor. Daryn Hickok added eight points and eight rebounds. Jadyn Matthews totaled six points and eight rebounds, and Ava Williams scored six points. WSU lost the turnover battle 17-8.

Montana (13-12, 9-5), which outscored WSU 20-4 in points off turnovers, was led by Carmen Gfeller with 18 points. Sammy Fatkin added 15 points and Idaho transfer Gina Marxen scored 11 points on 3-of-5 3-point shooting. Dani Bartsch did not score but pulled down 14 rebounds.


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