UPSET IN MORAGA: Weber State rallies in 2nd half, stuns No. 23 Saint Mary’s 61-57
Vegas odds said No. 23 Saint Mary’s was a 17-point favorite. Ken Pomeroy’s numbers favored the Gaels by 13 at 89% probability.
And that’s about how the game played out through the first 26 minutes.
Until it didn’t.
There was no rest for upset-minded Weber State on Sunday, who poured a 23-4 rally on the Gaels over an 11-minute span, and the Wildcats held on for a 61-57 victory in Moraga, California.
It’s Weber State’s first win over an Associated Press Top 25-ranked team since a 2000 win at No. 22 Utah, and high expectations for this season perhaps ratchet up a notch after locking down a Saint Mary’s team picked by coaches to win the West Coast Conference over Gonzaga.
“Really proud of our guys,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “Saint Mary’s has probably been playing as well as anybody in the country.”
Dillon Jones totaled a career-high 29 points and added 10 rebounds to lead Weber State (2-0). Junior guard Blaise Threatt was sensational in the second half on both ends, scoring all nine of his points after halftime while adding three assists and four steals. (WSU won the turnover margin 15-9).
Steven Verplancken Jr. and Alex Tew each scored eight points, and Dyson Koehler pitched in seven.
Saint Mary’s (2-1) star sophomore Aidan Mahaney had nine early points but finished with just 11, while 7-foot-1 Harry Wessels pitched in 11 points and guard Alex Ducas scored 10.
“We had about three or four different ball-screen coverages tonight and we just kept changing them because the games they’ve played, those guards go downhill, they get to the lane and then you just can’t guard them,” Duft said. “I think it confused them and they weren’t playing with a very good rhythm.”
It was Wessels taking over inside for a rally of nine points that pushed Saint Mary’s to a 13-point lead in the first half, a frame that finished 37-26 in favor of the Gaels.
SMC tallied a 7-0 run early in the second half, so a Jones stepback jumper only cut the margin to 44-31, which shortly became 47-31 with 13:49 left.
Jones kept Weber State afloat to that point with 20 of his team’s 31 points.
That’s when Threatt stepped in and broke the lid for the rest of the roster.
Threatt blew by Mahaney on a driving layup to score the first non-Jones field goal for the Wildcats in 13 minutes of game time. He did it again on the next possession and tossed in a high, floating banker over Wessels inside.
After Koehler walked into a second-chance 3 from the top of the arc to score Weber’s first triple in 15 minutes, Threatt drove the right side and lobbed to Tew on two straight possessions; Tew finished the first with a lay-in, the second with a contested dunk, and suddenly it was a five-point game.
“He got hands on balls, he got some steals … and he was able to get downhill and get some lobs to Alex, and that really helped our team,” Duft said about Threatt.
Verplancken canned a 3 and Threatt scored on another drive, tying the game 49-49 on a 14-0 run.
Then Jones took over.
Jones scored a pull-up jumper, a stepback at the elbow, and then a straightaway swish from 3 which extended the run to 21-4 and put WSU ahead 56-53 with 3:35 left.
“Dillon was just awesome, played all 40 minutes — a testament to him and what he’s done in the offseason to get his body right,” Duft said. “He’s obviously a difference-maker, and he was the best player on the floor tonight.”
Threatt extended the lead with his fourth steal and, after taking the clock down, put in another high-banking runner. On the next possession, Tew followed a miss with a putback dunk and the 60-55 margin with 1:23 left was enough for the victory.
With the score 60-57, Mahaney missed a late 3 and the Gaels had to foul three times to put WSU in the bonus. Threatt was the finisher, putting in the front-end free throw with 1.5 seconds left for the final score, then missing to end the game.
Saint Mary’s previously beat Hawaii by 34 in an exhibition, D2 Stanislaus State by 79, and New Mexico by 14.
The road isn’t much easier from here. Weber State next plays Gardner Webb, Colgate and Yale from Friday through Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick. Colgate and Yale were both picked to win their conferences.