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Jones sizzles as Weber State basketball dismantles Portland State 84-68

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Jan 19, 2023
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Weber State forward Dillon Jones (2) drives past Portland State's Isiah Kirby, left, and Hunter Woods (25) on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State center Alex Tew dunks against Portland State on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
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Weber State guard Zahir Porter (0) pulls up for a shot against Portland State's Bobby Harvey (2) on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN — Dillon Jones drove the paint and whipped a pass to an awaiting Junior Ballard in the corner, where Ballard rose and hit his third 3-pointer of the night to put Weber State up 77-49 against Portland State on Thursday night.

The under-8-minute media timeout came soon after and with that, Jones’ night was done.

Ballard’s bucket got Jones two assists away from a triple-double but, with another game Saturday and many more to come, Jones’ continual flirtations with the program’s first triple-double since 2000 will have to wait for another time.

The third-year forward’s state line was just one of several ways Weber State took apart Portland State. WSU led by as much as 30 in the second half and held the Vikings to 51 points through the first 35 minutes before coasting to an 84-68 victory at the Dee Events Center.

Jones finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 29 minutes to lead the way for Weber State (9-10, 4-2 Big Sky).

“We played really well tonight. Our guys were locked in, we played with a lot of edge,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “It’s that time of the season … you’ve got to play physical, play together and be ready to defend, and I thought our guys did that tonight.”

Steven Verplancken Jr. made his first five 3-pointers of the night, including four in a first half that saw the Wildcats explode for 51 points and go into halftime on a 16-1 run with a 51-29 lead. Verplancken scored a game-high 19 points.

Ballard and KJ Cunningham each pitched in 11 points, and big man Alex Tew had 10.

Jones credited WSU’s game plan for the hot first half, playing “backward” against PSU’s heavy on-ball pressure by getting downhill and making defenders move, then passing to the open man — rather than the Wildcats’ usual ball-movement approach to get defenders out of position.

“That’s kind of the name of their game,” Jones said. “We did a good job with it.”

Duft said games against Abilene Christian and Tarleton State helped his team be prepared for Portland State’s defensive style.

“We talk to them about it’s got to be one single after another. Just string together simple plays,” Duft said. “We’re getting better, and we’ve got to continue to play that way”

The Wildcats shot 18 of 28 (64.3%), with 11 assists, in the first half and finished 31 of 54 (57.4%) for the game. WSU was 10 of 18 (55.6%) from the 3-point line, the first time the team reached 10 or more 3-pointers since doing so in three straight games in the stretch against Saint Martin’s, Utah State and Cal Poly that turned the season around.

As good as Weber State was offensively, it was perhaps the best defensive effort of the season as well. At the time Weber went up 80-51 with 5:41 left, the Wildcats had held Portland State (8-11, 2-4) to 15-of-43 shooting (34.9%) before both teams put in backups and walk-ons down the stretch.

PSU also shot 4 of 15 from deep and Weber State pulled down 33 defensive rebounds, allowing the Vikings just two offensive boards.

“We were really locked in,” Duft said. “That was about as good as we’ve played defensively. Coach (Eric) Daniels had a great plan. They put you in some tough spots because they’ve got athletic guys out there, they put a lot of heat on your switching, and our guys were locked into that.”

That final tally also included four free throws PSU converted on three technical fouls whistled against Weber State in the final 12 minutes, two of which resulted in Daniels’ ejection from the bench.

After WSU built the 51-29 halftime lead, Verplancken hit his fifth 3 early in the second half, and Cunningham converted a long 3 and an old-fashioned three-point play for a 15-7 open to the half, making it 63-33.

“This is one of the best starts in the second half,” Verplancken said. “I think we grew in that aspect of the game, and I think that’s why it went the way it went.”

WSU is now 25-4 all-time against PSU in Ogden and 44-18 overall.

REBOUNDING SUPERLATIVES

Jones’ 14 rebounds moved him into ninth all-time at Weber State with 677, moving past Royal Edwards (1979-83). Jones also totaled his 10th double-double of the season.

Jones remains the No. 1 defensive rebounder in the country by defensive rebounding percentage, according to Ken Pomeroy, while WSU as a team is No. 2 nationally.

And, Thursday night was Weber State’s second-best defensive rebounding effort in the 22 seasons in Pomeroy’s database. WSU allowed PSU two offensive rebounds and grabbed 94.3% of available defensive rebounds.

UP NEXT

Weber State next welcomes Sacramento State (11-8, 4-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Hornets got blasted in the first half at Idaho State on Thursday before rallying and losing by four. Eastern Washington topped Northern Colorado to move to 7-0 atop the conference standings.

PSU 65, WSU 64

With a two-point lead, Weber State women’s basketball saw Esmerelda Morales, one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters, get just loose enough to can a corner 3 with 1 second left and lift Portland State to a home win over the Wildcats, who have now lost 10 straight games.

Daryn Hickok totaled 25 points and 10 rebounds for Weber State (4-14, 0-6 Big Sky). Jadyn Matthews added 21 points and crossed the 1,000-point threshold for her career.

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