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Weber State basketball heats up, holds on to hand Eastern Washington rare home loss

Jones scores 30 points, Wildcats win 6th straight

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Feb 17, 2024
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Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) grabs the ball as Eastern Washington's Dane Erikstrup (32) hits him on the head on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Cheney, Wash.
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Weber State's Blaise Threatt (0) handles the ball against Eastern Washington's Ellis Magnuson on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Cheney, Wash.
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Weber State's Alex Tew, center, rises to shoot against Eastern Washington's Ethan Price (10) on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Cheney, Wash.
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Weber State's Dillon Jones gathers to shoot against Eastern Washington on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Cheney, Wash.

Amid a resplendent ballgame, Weber State basketball star Dillon Jones splashed home his third 3-pointer and, after a loose ball and a smart pass ahead from Dyson Koehler, slammed home a transition dunk.

The Wildcats were a ridiculous 13 of 21 from the 3-point line at that point and held a 73-56 lead at first-place Eastern Washington with 10:30 left in Saturday’s contest.

But the Eagles are good for a reason. Eastern was undefeated at home this season (9-0) with a 25-1 record in their last 26 contests on Reese Court, and had won eight of their last nine against WSU.

Despite a huge, 20-4 run that eventually helped Eastern tie the score, Weber State had answers.

Jones tied his career-high with 30 points, added eight rebounds and eight assists while shooting 11 of 22, and the Wildcats won the final stretch to claim a 90-84 victory and hand the Eagles a rare home defeat while running their own winning streak to six games.

“Getting that win (rally Thursday at Idaho), it just charges you up, especially the way we did it,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “They’re excruciating to go through … and you worry if you have enough in the tank … but we just found it. And I’m going to shout out our guys for their offseason conditioning.”

Steven Verplancken Jr. added 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep for Weber State (18-9, 9-5 Big Sky). Blaise Threatt added 15 points, four rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes. Koehler scored 12 points and KJ Cunningham pitched in 11.

After shooting 1 of 12 from deep in the first half including 11 straight misses — a half WSU finished with a 44-33 lead — Jake Kyman and company heated up for Eastern Washington, who at one point made 7 in a stretch of 9 attempts.

That culminated when LeJuan Watts made a pull-up triple for a four-point play and Kyman made his fifth and final 3 of the game to fuel the comeback.

After an EWU offensive rebound and kick to the perimeter, reserve Sebastian Hartmann drove into the lane and threw down a gigantic, arena-igniting hammer dunk over two defenders to cap an 11-0 run and a 20-4 extended rally to make it 77-76 with 4:36 left.

“That crowd, when they dunked it to get it to one, that was about one of the loudest places we’ve been in for a while,” Duft said. “But our guys were really locked in and we didn’t flinch again.

“We got in a huddle and Dillon’s like ‘hey, if we make a mistake, keep your head up. No bad body language … that’s real growth from him and our team’s feeding off that right now.”

Trading free throw trips, the Eagles pulled to a 78-78 tie with 3:51 remaining — but never took the lead in a stretch lasting the final 30 minutes of the contest.

In a crucial sequence, Jones finally answered to end the run by swishing a pull-up 18-footer. Then Threatt stood up EWU center Ethan Price on a mismatch in the post and Jones grabbed the rebound. On the other end, Threatt gathered his own miss, blocked by Cedric Coward, and flipped a hook over Coward for a bucket.

“Our point guards really stepped up, I didn’t know who to play — in a good way,” Duft said. “Blaise is doing really well, then KJ comes in, makes a couple 3s … and then Blaise had big plays.”

Then WSU center Alex Tew stripped the ball loose from Price on the perimeter, Koehler corraled the ball and threw to Jones, and Jones raced to a flying, contested bank shot — giving Weber State an 86-79 lead with 1:20 left.

Koehler grabbed a rebound in traffic after a missed Coward 3 and Verplancken scored on a cutting layup to make it 88-81 with 21 seconds left.

Casey Jones knocked down a triple to keep EWU in the game but Dillon Jones threw a touchdown on the inbound pass to a downcourt Koehler for a dunk to seal the victory with 10 seconds left.

Kyman’s 3-ball performance gave him 19 points to lead Eastern Washington (17-9, 11-2). Watts had 15 points, backup center Dane Erikstrup scored 14, and Coward totaled 13 points and seven rebounds.

WSU shot 33 of 61 (54.1%) from the field, including 13 of 24 (54.2%) from 3, and was 11 of 15 at the stripe. The hot shooting helped overcome EWU’s 23-of-28 afternoon at the foul line, as did holding the Eagles to 9 of 27 from distance.

Against Eastern’s guard-like centers of Price and Erikstrup, who can drive and hit 3s, WSU again opted for Louie Jordan to back up Tew. Though Jordan missed two open 3s early in his time on the court, he finished with a career-high six rebounds, one assist and one steal, getting a plus-three in the plus-minus margin over 22 minutes.

Weber State next gets a one-game week with a Saturday matchup at Idaho State, looking to avenge a flat loss to the Bengals one month prior.

EWU 74, WSU 54

Weber State women’s basketball played well with first-place Eastern Washington for three quarters, but it was the other frame that decided the game.

EWU hit four 3s in the second quarter while WSU shot 2 of 11, the Eagles won the stanza 21-4, and Eastern went on to a 74-54 victory Saturday afternoon in Ogden.

Weber State (7-20, 4-10 Big Sky) got 14 points, five rebounds and four assists from Daryn Hickok. Kendra Parra scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from the 3-point line, adding six rebounds and three steals, and Taylor Smith added nine points.

Jamie Loera led EWU (21-5, 11-2) with 21 points, Jaleesa Lawrence scored 17 points and Aaliyah Alexander 15.


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