Weber State men’s basketball a few plays short from breaking Eastern Washington’s streaks
Weber State men’s basketball finished its week with an afternoon tilt at Eastern Washington, a team holding the nation’s third-longest winning streak overall at 11 games, 13 straight at home, and was 9-0 in Big Sky play.
The Wildcats got the Eagles mixed up in a grinder but, in the end, it was Angelo Allegri’s shooting, Cedric Coward’s rebounding and a few plays that didn’t go Weber’s way that decided the game as Eastern Washington held on for a 75-71 win Saturday.
“Proud of our team tonight, our effort,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “We had a couple things go against us there at the end that were big plays. But at the end of the day, our guys played really hard.”
Steele Venters hit a 3-pointer for Eastern (16-7, 10-0 Big Sky) to give his team its largest lead of the game at 32-24 with 8 seconds left in the first half.
But Zahir Porter splashed in the 3 at the buzzer going the other way, a make that sparked what became a 12-0 run for Weber State (11-11, 6-3).
Steven Verplancken Jr. made two shots, one a 3-pointer, and Alex Tew scored twice inside to give WSU a 36-32 lead with 17 minutes left.
That’s when Coward — playing more minutes with starter Casey Jones in foul trouble — started to make his impact. The 6-foot-6 guard is one of many lanky players EWU puts on the court, which caused mismatch problems when it came to rebounding.
Coward tied the game with consecutive offensive-rebound putbacks, two of his four offensive boards of the day. He finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s hard to get off the glass … he went over Dillon and got one, he’s a little longer than you think when you watch him on film. That was a big key to the game,” Duft said.
That set up a back-and-forth for the rest of the game, one in which Weber State couldn’t quite sequence together the right mix of makes and stops to regain a lead.
When a Deon Stroud jumper put Eastern up six, Junior Ballard answered with a four-point play with 10 minutes left.
An Allegri 3 (a second-chance bucket after a Coward rebound) preceded a technical foul against Weber State star Dillon Jones, who gently dropped a ball onto Coward after Coward committed a blocking foul against Jones. Venters made the free throws and EWU led by six again.
Dyson Koehler made a 3 for WSU to make it a one-point play not long after, but Allegri hit two more 3-pointers for a 67-62 advantage with 2:02 left.
Verplancken answered by hitting a 3 curling from the corner to the wing, but Koehler fouled Venters on his landing after Venters air-balled a 3 on the other end.
Ballard re-upped with an answer of his own, knocking down a triple to make it 70-68 with 1 minute left.
Then Ballard was victim to the night’s most questionable call. While boxing out Casey Jones, replay showed Jones fell over once Ballard had him clearly defeated. Ballard fell on top of him, and the foul went against Ballard, keeping the ball Eastern’s with 40 seconds left.
Allegri rewarded his team with one final dagger, making a contested 3 on the sideline while moving toward the corner, over a contest from Koehler, with 4 seconds on the shot clock for a five-point lead with 23 seconds left. He scored 28 points on the night and was 6 of 8 from the 3-point line.
“He’s a good player and he made a good play. They made a couple more than we did and other than that, it was an even game. Their coach told me after the game, ‘you guys are really good defensively.’ I thought that was the case tonight. We played hard and did some really good things.”
Dillon Jones kept Weber in it with a drive, a shot ruled a make on a goaltend, and a free throw to cut it to 73-71 with 18.5 seconds left.
Allegri then iced the game with two free throws, keeping all of Eastern Washington’s winning streaks intact.
Dillon Jones led Weber State with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Verplancken scored 16 points and Ballard, who was 3 of 5 from distance, scored 12 points. Koehler chipped in nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Venters, the third straight leading scorer WSU held to an inefficient night, added 13 points for EWU on 3-of-13 shooting.
“I have so much confidence in how our team plays. We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Duft said. “Coach (Dan) Russell had a really good plan for Eastern Washington tonight, we followed it, and they made some great individual plays. Hats off to them, they’re a veteran team and they’ve played in a lot of these games.”
Weber State next plays Saturday, Feb. 4, at Idaho State (8-14, 5-4) on a light week, but that game begins a stretch of four games in eight days.
WEBER STATE 68, EWU 65
Weber State women’s basketball recovered from Eastern Washington’s 26-point third quarter and survived late free-throw misses with an efficient fourth quarter, prevailing for a win to break a 12-game losing streak.
Ava Williams hit a smooth elbow jumper for Weber’s final field goal (the Wildcats were 7 of 10 in the quarter) to put her team up 66-59 with 2:44 left. The Wildcats then missed three straight free throws and were 2 of 6 down the stretch.
Eastern Washington, which shot 9 of 16 in the third quarter overall, was just 1 of 9 from the 3-point line in the fourth. Jaleesa Lawrence put in the only make to cut Weber’s lead to 67-65 with 56 seconds left.
Williams made one free throw with 9.9 on the clock, Jamie Loera missed a 3 the other way and WSU held on.
Jadyn Matthews led Weber State (5-16, 1-8 Big Sky) with 14 points, adding four rebounds. Laura Taylor scored 12 points off the bench. Williams totaled 11 points and five rebounds, and Daryn Hickok added 10 points and four rebounds. Guards Kaiija Lesane and Aaliyah Ellis each grabbed five rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 24 of 49 overall and 6 of 9 from the 3-point line, overcoming 20 turnovers.
Aaliyah Alexander led EWU (13-7, 6-4) with 16 points and seven rebounds.