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Weber State basketball: Red-hot shooting leads Idaho State to 80-62 blowout over WSU

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Feb 24, 2024
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Weber State's Dilon Jones, left, handles the ball against Idaho State's AJ Burgin on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Pocatello, Idaho.
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Weber State's Alex Tew (20) spins on an Idaho State defender in the post on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Pocatello, Idaho.

POCATELLO, Idaho — To achieve a rare feat requires rare, or at least career-best, performances.

That’s what Idaho State men’s basketball got in an 80-62, runaway win over Weber State on Saturday at Reed Gym to give the Bengals their first regular-season series sweep over the Wildcats since 2004 (and, combined with women’s results, ISU’s first 4-0 season against WSU since 1991).

Guard Miguel Tomley and center Brayden Parker seemingly could not miss, no matter how well Weber State defended them. And on the other end, WSU shot 5 of 16 from deep and 13 of 21 on layups, unable for a large stretch in the first half to get looks at the rim to fall in.

“Early in the game, I think us missing a bunch of shots at the rim affected us a little bit. We haven’t been missing those,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “We missed a lot around the rim and then we weren’t making 3s. You can’t do both and stay in the game. Just a tough night.”

Tomley scored 26 points on a 6-of-11 performance from downtown — the six 3s a career-high and 26 points his second-best mark in 86 career games. Parker shot 11 of 18 for 25 points, with 11 makes totaling his second-most field goals over 113 career games for Idaho State (12-16, 7-8 Big Sky).

For Weber State (18-10, 9-6), Dillon Jones totaled 17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. KJ Cunningham, who played his 135th game at WSU to become the program’s all-time leader, added nine points, and Blaise Threatt and Steven Verplancken Jr. added eight.

The two teams slugged to a 32-26 ISU halftime advantage by making 2 of their final 18 combined field goal attempts before halftime.

The second half was a different story, and Tomley’s shotmaking shined.

After a short run to open the second half, Tomley provided dagger after dagger to WSU’s comeback hopes. The Santa Clara transfer made three shots, all to beat the shot clock, over the span of three minutes — a stepback, then step-through-leaning two-pointer (44-31, 14:51 left), a stepback 3 (47-35, 13:35) and another stepback 3 (50-37, 12:46).

All three were tough, contested, big-time makes, and Idaho State won the battle of individual playmaking. (Tomley added a fourth such contested 3 to beat the shot clock with 3:30 left and the game already in hand.)

“Some of those we were contesting to the point of almost fouling,” Duft said. “It’s a make-or-miss game this time of year, nobody’s tricking anybody. Their two guys stepped up, made tough shots. It was a great game for them.”

Following Tomley’s series of rainmaking shot-clock beaters, Weber State had just one run to keep it a game. Cunningham knocked down a corner 3, Jones drove for a three-point play, and Jones nabbed a steal and dunk to make it 58-47 with 8:40 left.

But Parker scored in the post and, after a timeout, Idaho State sandwiched three made free throws around a WSU turnover and the game was never close again.

Parker enjoyed a similarly good night. After making three 3s in the first half on pick-and-pop plays that exploited WSU’s ball-screen defense committed to stopping drives, Parker started pouring in two-pointers. He shot 6 of 6 on twos after halftime, all guarded in the post, and finished with a fadeaway, baseline 15-footer to beat the shot clock with 4:40 remaining.

The process to reach the end result was much different than ISU’s 74-64 win in Ogden. In the previous January decision, ISU scored 40 points in the paint, accounting for 54% of its scoring by blowing past on-ball defenders for much of the night.

Saturday in Pocatello, ISU’s 30 paint points accounted for 37.5% of its scoring. Including layups and dunks, WSU had 22 attempts to ISU’s 11.

Despite WSU’s eight misses at the rim, the Wildcats outscored the Bengals 34-30 in the paint (55% of WSU’s points). The disparity everywhere else was just too large. Idaho State shot 31 of 52 while WSU was 22 of 52, and the Bengals held a 10-5 advantage in 3-point makes.

“I never once thought our guys weren’t playing hard,” Duft said. “We got them to take hard shots and they made them, and you have to tip your cap to them.”

The loss is a hit to Weber State’s aim to finish second, which earns the same conference tournament advantages as the No. 1 seed. But two days after losing at Idaho, Eastern Washington (12-3) won at second-place Northern Colorado (10-5) on Saturday while Montana (10-5) held off Portland State at home.

WSU next hosts Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, while Montana hits the road to Eastern Washington and Idaho. After beating NoCo by 19 on the road, Weber State needs a home win over the Bears; such a victory would provide WSU with another important tiebreaker, while also needing help to overcome Montana’s one-game advantage.

“It’s a horrible feeling, but they just made shots and we didn’t,” Cunningham said. “They had a great night, and now we have something to play for the next game. We’re going to play hard and get ready for the tournament.”


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