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Weber State basketball reaches informative Montana week

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

ROBERT CASEY, Weber State Athletics

Weber State guard Junior Ballard (24) scoops a layup against Northern Arizona on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

After an unsuccessful light week against Idaho State, both Weber State men’s and women’s basketball teams resume a full Big Sky Conference schedule this week with contests against each squad hailing from Montana.

The WSU men hit the road for their first conference road trip while the women are at home for the first time in three weeks.


After a disastrous second half against Idaho State, Weber State men’s basketball (7-9, 2-1 Big Sky) is at Montana on Thursday to open what is usually the most difficult road trip of the conference season. Salvaging a split would go a long way toward staying near the top of the standings; a sweep, already accomplished by Eastern Washington, would be even more impactful.

The Griz (8-8, 2-2) escaped a 1-3 conference start by holding off a Northern Colorado comeback. UM has a win over Idaho, an overtime loss to Northern Arizona and a defeat to unbeaten Eastern Washington.

Josh Bannan, the 6-foot-9 junior, makes everything go for Montana. Much like Dillon Jones for WSU, Bannan leads the Griz in scoring (16.9 points per game), rebounding (8.4) and assists (3.1). He’s one of four players averaging double-digit scoring: Southern Utah senior transfer Aanen Moody (14.2) who is the team’s best 3-point shooter (39.2%), Colorado State forward transfer Dischon Thomas (11.9) and guard Brandon Whitney (11.2).

After Thursday night’s game in Missoula, the Wildcats travel to Bozeman for a Saturday evening (4 p.m.) tip against defending champion Montana State (10-7, 3-1), the best defensive team in the Big Sky by a considerable margin with a problematic offense that primarily scores in the paint and at the free-throw line.

RaeQuan Battle, the former Washington transfer, has improved his efficiency from last season as a Bobcats bench player and averages 15.9 points per game in his first season as a starter. He’s shooting 80% on two-pointers against Division I opponents and is an 80% free-throw shooter as well. At 31.3% from 3, he’s a respectable threat; he shot 7 of 11 from deep in a nonconference game at Southern Utah.

Reigning Big Sky MVP Jubrile Belo anchors the post but it’s perhaps his tandem effort with his backup, Great Osobor, that makes MSU tough on the interior. Both can protect the rim. When taken together, the pair averages 21 points and 10 rebounds per game this season. Darius Brown, a grad transfer from Cal State Northridge, leads the team in 3-point shooting at 44.1%.


In the midst of a seven-game losing streak and an 0-3 start to conference play, Weber State women’s basketball will not have one of its key, multiyear returners.

Senior center Emma Torbert is no longer with the team, according to game notes published this week by WSU. Torbert missed the first month of this season with a knee injury before ultimately playing in five games. The first was her best, scoring 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting in a loss to Utah Tech. But in the four games since, Torbert shot 7 of 34 from the field and averaged 6.3 points per game.

Torbert joined WSU as a redshirt during the 2019-20 season after transferring from Nevada. She played 55 games in two-plus seasons as a Wildcat, averaging 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

WSU’s lineup will look much like it did before Torbert returned from injury, with junior Vicky Parra likely to return starting in the post with Daryn Hickok and Jadyn Matthews, while Laura Taylor and Kaiija Lesane start at guard.

Things won’t get easier for the struggling squad, which has lost its three conference tilts so far by margins of 28, 14 and 13 points.

First up is hosting Montana (6-9, 2-2 Big Sky) on Thursday. The Griz just defeated Northern Colorado — a team that beat WSU by 28 — by 22 points. Carmen Gfeller and Sammy Fatkin each score about 13 points per game for UM. That game tips at 6 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.

WSU then welcomes Montana State (9-7, 2-2), a team that also beat Northern Colorado by 20 or more. Spark-plug guard Darian White is back for the Bobcats, averaging 11.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. That game tips at 1 p.m.


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