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Weber State men’s basketball: Idaho State controls 2nd half, knocks off WSU in Ogden

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Jan 7, 2023
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Weber State forward Dillon Jones (2) passes over Idaho State's Daxton Carr (13) on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State center Alex Tew (20) shoots over Idaho State's Kolby Lee on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN — In what was destined from the start to be a low-scoring game, Weber State men’s basketball — though it missed many opportunities to break it open — controlled the first half Saturday night against Idaho State and led 32-25 going into the locker room.

But Idaho State managed to find ways to start scoring while Weber State became stagnant and crumpled offensively.

Only thanks to seven free throws with the game already decided did the Wildcats eke out 25 second-half points. The Bengals scored in the paint, rebounded the ball and pushed WSU out of the way for a 67-57 victory to make Idaho State one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Sky.

“Not our best performance, obviously. The second half, we just weren’t very good. They kind of dominated us in every aspect of the game in the second half,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “We have a good team, but we have to understand and be humble enough to know that we have to play a certain way, we can’t ever deviate from that. … Second half, we didn’t move the ball very well … we’ve got to move it and create some advantages for ourselves.”

Though Idaho State (6-10, 3-0 Big Sky) used a 9-0 run to take a 42-37 lead, Steven Verplancken Jr.’s fadeaway jumper reclaimed a 43-42 lead for Weber State (7-9, 2-1) with 10:40 left in the contest.

The Wildcats would not score another field goal until 3:10 remained. With equal parts poor ball movement and sloppy turnovers, WSU managed just 13 points in the initial 16 minutes of the second half.

Perhaps no play encapsulated the second half like the one that sealed it.

Not long after Miguel Tomley hit a 3-pointer to cap a 12-0 run and put Idaho State up double digits, WSU big man Alex Tew was late to set a screen near the baseline for Verplancken to get the ball near the elbow. When that finally developed, Dillon Jones’ pass to Verplancken was easily poked away by ISU guard Maleek Arington, who caught up to the ball and raced to a dunk to put the visitors up 58-45 with 5:40 left.

Neither team shot it well from deep. Idaho State was 4 of 18, well below its average of nine makes from 3 per game, and WSU was 3 of 19. Of the game’s mere 124 points, 43 came at the foul line (ISU shot 21 of 26, Weber was 22 of 25).

ISU big man Brayden Parker was key in the second-half push, scoring 11 points and putting Weber’s defense in a bind. He finished with 15 points to lead the Bengals.

Lanky senior forward Jay Nagle was crucial in the effort as well, boosting ISU’s defensive-stopping abilities and grabbing four of his team’s eight offensive rebounds in the second half. He totaled 12 points and six rebounds.

“I thought we practiced well this week but we didn’t have that same edge to us that we normally have tonight. So obviously that’s something we’ve got to work on,” Duft said. “They have two good post players and our young post guys didn’t do a good job tonight, they got really undisciplined (defensively).”

Weber State entered Saturday as the nation’s 11th-best defensive rebounding team and had become a good defensive team over the last three weeks as well. But ISU shot 11 of 18 on two-pointers in the second half, doing in both facets what no team has done against WSU in some time.

“I thought we could’ve handled the adversity a little better in that second half. I thought that was a big reason why we fell short,” WSU senior guard Junior Ballard said. “When we get hit in the mouth, we have to be able to respond. I don’t think we did a good job of that.”

One particular first-half sequence hurt Weber State. With WSU forcing ISU into low-quality looks that gave the Bengals separate scoring droughts of 5 1/2 minutes and 4 minutes, the Wildcats missed an opportunity to put the game away when, leading 25-16, KJ Cunningham missed three consecutive 3-pointers.

Two of those were very open looks dished from Jones in the post. Dyson Koehler missed a pair of triples in the first half that also could’ve created some distance, and Verplancken finished 0 of 3 from deep, all in the first half. Those missed chances were key because those open looks were no longer there in the second half.

“We had a chance to really put them away and we did not do that,” Duft said. “I was worried at halftime that could come back and bite us because they play really well on the road. … That was a big moment for us in the first half, missing those open looks when we had a chance to stretch the lead out.”

Jones, the reigning Big Sky player of the week, was in the midst of a scintillating first half when he started picking apart the defense. Jones totaled nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals in the opening frame.

But he was held in check in the second half, reaching 13 points and 13 rebounds thanks to a handful of late free throws. He also grabbed a fourth steal, but ultimately committed 10 of his team’s 15 turnovers.

Ballard scored 13 points for Weber State, adding three steals, and hit a 3-pointer early in the second half that, for a time, stemmed Idaho State’s run coming out of halftime.

Verplancken scored 12 points. Tew had eight points, all in the first half, including two thunderous dunks before halftime that helped Weber to its advantage despite missing big opportunities behind the 3-point line.

In 60 seasons of Big Sky basketball, Saturday was just the 14th time Idaho State has won in Ogden (Weber holds a 50-14 mark at home against the Bengals).

Weber State next travels to Montana (8-8, 2-2) and Montana State (10-7, 3-1) for its first Big Sky road trip, one that is usually the toughest of the season.

“A lot of us are down, obviously, after the loss, home crowd,” Ballard said. “Biggest thing is just being together, not letting one (game) fade away, two, three. Because once one goes, then two, then three, it’s a trickle-down effect. If we stay (a) collective, stick with it, trust each other, continue to trust … we’ll be right where we need to be.”

Eastern Washington blew a 26-point lead at home to Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon but Steele Venters hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left to lift the Eagles to a 78-75 win and a 4-0 record to claim first place through the first two weeks.


After a 4-4 start, Weber State women’s basketball has now lost seven straight after falling at Idaho State on Saturday afternoon.

Jadyn Matthews made three free throws to give WSU (4-11, 0-3 Big Sky) a 42-41 lead with 7:47 left in the game, but Idaho State finished on a 24-10 run.

Daryn Hickok led Weber State with 15 points and six rebounds. Matthews added seven points and seven rebounds, and Vicky Parra pitched in eight points.

WSU committed just 12 turnovers but shot 16 of 53 from the floor and was minus-eight in points at the free-throw line even though Idaho State shot a poor 25 of 41 from the stripe.

Idaho State (8-6, 3-0) grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. Laura Bello totaled 19 points and 10 rebounds, Callie Bourne had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Carsyn Boswell also scored 18 points.


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