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Both-ends clinic turns tight late, but Weber State basketball tops Idaho 73-65

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Jan 26, 2023
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Weber State's Dillon Jones scoops a shot against Idaho on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho.
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Weber State guard Steven Verplancken Jr., left, drives against Idaho's Dominique Ford (5) on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho.
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Weber State center Handje Tamba rises to shoot over Idaho's Isaac Jones (3) on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho.

When Handje Tamba cut down the lane, received a pass and rose for a hammer dunk, he became the eighth Weber State men’s basketball player to score in the first half Thursday at Idaho.

That slam gave WSU an 18-point lead as the first half neared its close, a both-ends clinic that eventually saw the Wildcats go up 21 points on five occasions.

But Idaho guard Trey Smith went ballistic in the second half to make things interesting, hitting five 3-pointers in an 8-minute span to make Weber State sweat. His final two were tough, contested makes that cut WSU’s lead to 70-65 with 47 seconds left.

But it was Smith’s lone miss of the second half, with 30 seconds left, that sealed the deal. Weber State turned away the Idaho surge and claimed a 73-65 victory at ICCU Arena.

Dillon Jones gathered his 12th double-double of the season, totaling 21 points, 14 rebounds and four assists while shooting 4 of 6 from the field and 12 of 15 from the foul line. Six other Wildcats had at least two rebounds as WSU pulled down 33 of a possible 34 defensive boards.

“Really good job on the glass,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “We were doubling the big guy and we were going to get in rotation tonight … we knew there was going to be some rotational rebounds we had to come up with, and we did.”

Steven Verplancken Jr. scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, going 2 of 4 from behind the arc.

Weber State shot 15 of 24 from the field and held Idaho to 8 of 24 in the first half, a frame that propelled the Wildcats (11-10, 6-2 Big Sky) to their ninth win in the last 12 games.

KJ Cunningham scored a career-high 12 points for WSU, hitting a corner 3 for a 53-32 lead with 13 minutes left. At that point, WSU was 7 of 11 from deep (finishing 7 of 13).

Cunningham shot 5 of 5 from the field, including a 2-of-2 mark from the 3-point line.

“He was really good for us tonight. Steadied the ship,” Duft said. “Our game plan was pretty complicated, we had lots of different things going on defensively and when we watch the film, he won’t make a mistake. That’s just who he is.”

Freshman post player Daniel Rouzan scored inside for a 60-39 lead with 11:17 left.

Then, Idaho star big man Isaac Jones started what became a 21-6 run, forerunning the Smith 3-point barrage with an old-fashioned three-point play in the paint. Smith’s first triple made it 60-45 with 8:10 left, kicking off the spirited comeback.

“We knew he could shoot like that, he’s a good shooter but hasn’t shot it well this year,” Duft said. “But we gave ourselves enough cushion to where we could withstand it and proud of our team’s effort there.”

Dillon Jones — the nation’s best defensive rebounder — grabbed his only offensive board and put back an Alex Tew miss to stem the tide at 64-53 with 4:10 left. In the final 2 minutes, Dillon Jones scored on a drive and made 4 of 6 free throws to help seal the win.

Smith led Idaho (8-14, 2-7) with 17 points. Divant’e Moffitt added 13 points (5.5 below his average) on 5 of 13 shooting and Isaac Jones scored 12 (seven below his average).

Duft said WSU noticed Idaho’s offense had found a rhythm with how most opponents play Moffitt defensively, so the Wildcats tried to force him pick up the ball or get rid of it coming off screens — crediting Tew’s ball-screen defense as part of that effort.

Weber State next travels to first-place Eastern Washington for a 3 p.m. MST Saturday tilt. The Eagles raced past Idaho State in the second half Thursday for their 11th straight win to reach 9-0 in Big Sky play.

IDAHO 66, WSU 52

Despite an excited “field trip crowd” of school children for a Thursday matinee at the Dee Events Center, the Weber State women’s basketball team could not break its losing skid which reached 12 games with a home loss to Idaho.

The lead changed just twice in the contest; Idaho led 36-26 at halftime and didn’t look back.

Ava Williams started and led Weber State (4-16, 0-8 Big Sky) with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting; the rest of the team shot 14 of 50. Jadyn Matthews scored 11 points and Daryn Hickok had 10. Point guard Kaiija Lesane grabbed 10 rebounds.

WSU shot 1 of 14 from the 3-point line, with the only make far beyond that: Laura Taylor connected on a three-quarters-court heave at the third-quarter buzzer.

Sydney Gandy shot 5 of 7 from deep and led Idaho (7-13, 3-6) with 19 points. Beyonce Bea scored 15 points and Brooke Malone added 11.


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