homepage logo

Weber State basketball holds lead through 40-minute rock fight with Sacramento State

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Feb 10, 2024
1 / 4
Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) gathers to score against Sacramento State's Jacob Holt on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ogden.
2 / 4
Weber State's Alex Tew, left, spins to shoot against Sacramento State's Akol Mawien on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ogden.
3 / 4
Weber State's Steven Verplancken Jr. (11) rises for a jumper against Sacramento State's Emil Skytta (10) on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ogden.
4 / 4
Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) rises for a shot against Sacramento State on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ogden.

OGDEN — The numbers show Weber State men’s basketball never trailed Saturday hosting Sacramento State. The game was tied only at 2-2 and 4-4, and WSU led for 38:06 of what was a 40-minute rock fight.

The Wildcats could never deliver a dagger to the travel-weary Hornets but always had the game in control — their win probability never dropped below 93.4% in the second half, per kenpom.com.

In a physical game, abundant with collisions and replay reviews — “they try to get you angry and rile you up a little bit,” WSU center Alex Tew said — the second half brought a back and forth where Sacramento State pushed to get the margin to five or so, then Weber State nudged it back to nine or 10 points.

That went up to the final minute when there was some small possibility the Wildcats could lose the lead.

Inexplicably helping off Austin Patterson, the Wildcats let the Sac State guard launch and make his fourth 3-pointer of the game to make it 53-50.

Dillon Jones answered with a probing, paint fadeaway for a 55-50 score with 52 seconds left.

In a final threat, Hornets forward Duncan Powell scored for the seventh time in the paint, driving for a bucket to make it 55-53 with 10 seconds left.

With an important awareness, Jones acted quickly. He grabbed the ball out of the net, inbounded to Dyson Koehler, got the ball right back and threw ahead to a streaking Steven Verplancken Jr.

Verplancken scored through a foul from Jacob Holt with 3.7 seconds left, made his free throw for good measure, and Weber State won 58-53.

“I knew they didn’t have timeouts, so I knew we needed to take the ball out quick. I didn’t want them to have time to set up a press,” Jones said in a postgame interview on ESPN+. “I think they were so worried about taking away the (first) pass, so I just saw the lane, I hit the lane and knew Steven was open, so I just made the pass.”

Jones finished with 21 points, two rebounds, five assists, three steals and six turnovers on 7-of-9 shooting for Weber State (16-9, 7-5 Big Sky) — several times single-handedly providing answers over consecutive possessions any time Sac State (6-19, 2-10) trimmed the margin to slightly uncomfortable levels, and almost all of the time running the offense due to how WSU had the Hornets scouted.

Verplancken had 12 points, shooting 4 of 5 on two-pointers and 1 of 6 from deep. Freshman Viljami Vartiainen totaled eight points, knocking down two of WSU’s scant four 3-pointers

Powell’s efficient night in the post totaled 17 points to lead Sacramento State. Patterson’s four 3s netted him 12 points.

“We just couldn’t really make that shot that got us over the top … but it was just a testament to the fact that our guys really wanted to win and worked hard,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “You’ve got to figure out the problem that night and solve it … we weren’t making shots so we had to defend and rebound, and I thought, on that end of the court, we were really good.”

Sac State shot poorly for most of the night in its first-shot offense but stayed in the game on the offensive glass; the Hornets are the best offensive-rebounding team in the Big Sky by a considerable margin, making up for an apparent lack of high-level skill by often playing four players 6-foot-7 or taller at the same time.

When Powell scored a putback for a three-point play to make the score 37-32 with 13:03 left, his team had nine offensive rebounds for 12 second-chance points.

WSU gave up just one more offensive board the rest of the game (it did not result in points), and that’s a substantial reason the Wildcats stretched their lead to 53-42 with five minutes left when Tew threw an excellent pass from the post to Vartiainen for a corner 3.

A considerable portion of the game was decided by Weber State’s defense, and Tew was the anchor. Weber State harassed the third-worst turnover offense in the country into 21 giveaways on the evening; Koehler grabbed four steals and Tew netted five.

Early in the second half, the Hornets attacked Tew — the best defensive big man against the pick-and-roll in the Big Sky — with ball-screen actions. In one sequence, Tew nabbed steals on consecutive possessions against the pick and roll, and one he immediately took up the court for a two-handed dunk and a 10-point lead.

Tew added eight points and eight rebounds, also blocking one shot, to his five steals.

“I had a rough night on Thursday, so I wanted to bounce back and one thing I pride myself on is being a good player defensively,” the junior center said. “I pride myself on my ball-screen defense and being active … I feel that’s my role and that’s what I give the best for the team.”

“Big fella right here,” Verplancken added, “he trusted the work and that was big for us … he got a bunch of steals, the run-out dunk, that gives us an energy boost.”

It wasn’t the prettiest victory but, over the last two weeks, Weber State has won a current league-best four consecutive games and risen from eighth place to third.

“At the end of the year, they don’t ask how, they just ask how many,” Duft said. “(Sac State) got embarrassed at Idaho State and this was going to be the game they tried to get their season back … our guys were physically in the game. We didn’t make a lot of shots but defensively, we were as good as we’ve been for a while, and they’re a tough matchup for us with the things that they do.”

The Wildcats next travel to an improving Idaho (9-15, 3-8) on Thursday before taking on first-place machine Eastern Washington (16-8, 10-1) on Saturday.


After beating Portland State by 21 on Thursday, Weber State women’s basketball fell flat in its best opportunity to build another winning streak and got hammered by three-win Sacramento State — a team WSU beat by 20 at home last month.

The teams traded 3-pointers to start the game but Sacramento State (4-19, 3-9 Big Sky) won the first quarter 22-10 and never trailed. The Wildcats (7-18, 4-8) surrendered 11 3-pointers and Dutch guard Benthe Versteeg shot 10-of-13 from the field to lead the Hornets with 26 points.

She also added a program-record 14 assists, for good measure.

Versteeg nearly matched Weber State’s output. The Wildcats shot 15 of 53 overall and 3 of 17 from the 3-point line. Senior forwards Daryn Hickok (18 points, eight rebounds) and Jadyn Matthews (16 points) combined to shoot 12 of 28 (42.8%); everyone else shot a combined 3 of 25 (12%). WSU also committed 24 turnovers against four assists.

The Wildcats return home to face Idaho (11-12, 4-7) on Thursday (WSU defeated the Vandals 61-56 on the road last month) before hosting second-place Eastern Washington (19-5, 9-2) on Saturday.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)