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Another big one: Weber State basketball blows lead, then squashes Yale in overtime 75-65

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Nov 18, 2023
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Weber State's Steven Verplancken Jr. (11) drives past August Mahoney, rear, and Danny Wolf (1) on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick.
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Weber State's Blaise Threatt (0) dribbles against Yale's Matt Knowling (22) on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick.
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Weber State's Dillon Jones dribbles against Yale on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick.
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Weber State's Blaise Threatt (0) looks to pass against Yale's Danny Wolf on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Weber State men’s basketball built a big lead Saturday against Yale, and that lead came later in the game than the team’s frustrating, one-point loss to Gardner-Webb on Friday.

But there the Wildcats were again, seeing a big lead against a team called the Bulldogs evaporate down the stretch.

After WSU went up 14 with 8:20 left, Yale finished a 20-6 run when August Mahoney, basically cold off the bench after being neutralized by foul trouble, drained a side-step 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to send the game to overtime on Day 2 of the Atlantic Slam in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

But breaks at quarters or halves are funny things.

WSU star Dillon Jones opened overtime with a driving bucket, ending a drought where WSU finished regulation missing its last 10 field goals, and the Wildcats dominated the extra period on the way to a 75-65 victory.

“These moments right here build us up to be stronger,” Jones said postgame on the ESPN+ stream. “You know, it’s crazy, this arena looks a lot like Boise where we play our conference tournament. So it’s crazy for us to have a moment, this kind of atmosphere with the fans and stuff, so it was dope.

“I think our team’s headed in the right direction and to get a win like that, you know, Yale’s really good. I think it’s a true testament to our team.”

Steven Verplancken Jr. shook off a cold shooting night and knocked down a fading jumper at the elbow, then Dyson Koehler rattled home a rise-and-fire 3 to put the Wildcats up 66-61.

Koehler rebounded a Handje Tamba second-free-throw miss and was fouled, made his free throws, and put WSU up 69-63.

Yale shot 2 of 8 in overtime, including a 0-for-4 mark from 3. In a crucial moment, forward Yassine Gharram took an 0-for-2 trip to the free-throw line — Yale’s fourth such freebie trip of the game — and Weber State iced it from there, going 6 of 6 at the charity stripe to close the game.

Tamba’s miss, which Koehler rebounded for more points, was WSU’s only free-throw miss of the game; the Wildcats finished 19 of 20. Yale was 8 of 16.

WSU led for 36:41 of game time.

Jones recorded another double-double, finishing with 17 points, 15 rebounds and two assists. He hoovered in five rebounds in the first four minutes of the second half as WSU (3-1) began to take control, and in the process surpassed Bruce Collins for fourth all-time on WSU’s career rebounds list.

Verplancken scored 15 points despite a 3-of-13 shooting night. He went on a personal 7-0 run in the first half, making all three of his field goals in consecutive possessions, to help WSU to a 33-29 halftime lead.

Blaise Threatt was impactful again, totaling eight points, seven rebounds and four assists. Viljami Vartiainen scored eight points as well, and those two keyed a big second-half rally to put WSU in control.

Threatt scored on a drive and dished to Tamba for two. Vartiainen knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, then Threatt put back a Jones miss to push the Wildcats ahead 53-39 with 8:20 left.

After a Yale timeout and a miss, Vartiainen missed an open 3 that would’ve put the Bulldogs in a bind. Instead, John Poulakidas scored while fouled going the other way to begin Yale’s massive, regulation-ending rally.

All six of WSU’s points during the Yale run came at the foul line.

With WSU leading by three, Poulakidas missed a 3 and Jones hauled in the rebound. But with 20.4 seconds left, Jones drove and slipped on a slick spot on the court, falling to the ground, and Yale gained possession on a held ball.

Danny Wolf scored on a layup for Yale, Verplancken made two free throws with 7.2 seconds left, and Mahoney knocked home the game-tying triple to send it to overtime.

Wolf led Yale (3-2) with 20 points and nine rebounds. Matt Knowling added 16 points, and guard Bez Mbeng totaled eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Finishing regulation has become an issue, though Weber State still gets credit for its overtime play Saturday and its wins over Saint Mary’s and Yale. At this juncture, and using Ken Pomeroy ratings, those two victories are two of the three best wins for WSU in the last 10 seasons (the best coming at Utah State last season).

WSU finishes play at the Atlantic Slam at 11 a.m. MST Sunday, facing Colgate (2-2). Colgate defeated Gardner-Webb in a 59-52 rock fight earlier Saturday.


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