homepage logo

Weber State basketball: Wildcats wake up, run Idaho off the floor in 88-65 victory

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Jan 20, 2024
1 / 3
Weber State's Dyson Koehler (4) dunks against Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Ogden.
2 / 3
Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) shoots against Idaho's Terren Frank (15) on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Ogden.
3 / 3
Weber State's Viljami Vartiainen, left, shoots against Idaho's Trevon Blassingame (1) on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Ogden.

OGDEN — Weber State men’s basketball looked like a team on a three-game losing streak at several points in Saturday night’s game against Idaho.

“When you come out in a game like this, it doesn’t happen right away that you just start playing good,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “You have to kind of work through that and early in the game, it looked like a team that wasn’t very confident and when you’re not confident, you’re slow, you’re not moving as well.”

But the Wildcats passed two gut-check moments and seemingly snapped the things back into place that once built a six-game win streak. Weber State outscored Idaho 40-16 over the final 12 minutes and ran off the Vandals in an 88-65 victory at the Dee Events Center.

“Eventually you just have to say enough’s enough and you have to get back to playing with great energy,” Duft said. “And I thought Dyson (Koehler) set the tone for that, his winning plays that he was making with offensive rebounds, deflections, steals.”

Junior guard Blaise Threatt set his season-high with 24 points, adding five rebounds. Koehler reset his career scoring high for the fifth time in the last six weeks, totaling 23 points and seven rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting, including 3 of 5 from the 3-point line.

Dillon Jones totaled 14 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and two steals — the last moving him into first place as WSU’s career steals leader, supplanting Eddie Gill who happened to be in the building for a 25th-anniversary recognition of the 1998-99 team.

Steven Verplancken Jr. added 14 points, shooting 4 of 9 from distance.

After taking one-possession losses to Sacramento State, Portland State and Eastern Washington, the Wildcats (12-7, 3-3 Big Sky) came out Saturday simply unable to defend. WSU left Idaho center Julius Mims free near the rim for four first-half dunks (on the way to 14 first-half points) and guard Quinn Denker drove into the paint at will for nine first-half points.

The first gut-check moment came when Idaho took a 21-9 lead as forward Terren Frank drained a corner 3 to beat the shot clock with 11:03 left in the first half. To that point, the Vandals had 14 points in the paint and were 9 of 13 from the field while WSU had a 2-of-7 shooting mark.

Verplancken hit a 3 and Koehler dunked a lob pass from Jones to get some blood flowing for the Wildcats, getting it to 27-22 at the under-eight media timeout.

Duft had two things to say during that timeout: scheme-wise, he needed his players to start forcing Idaho into tougher shots while, intangibles-wise, he emphatically reminded his players that the most passionate of them would stay on the court.

“Coach said he was going to play the guys that had energy,” Threatt said.

It changed immediately. Threatt grabbed a steal and raced to a layup, then he and Koehler immediately forced a backcourt turnover and Idaho foul. Koehler soon rebounded his own missed 3 for a putback, Jones tallied the steal that sent him past Gill on the career leaderboard and Koehler scored on the ensuing play.

That capped a 12-0 run, and a longer 21-6 advantage, to put WSU ahead 30-27 late in the half; the game went to the locker room 35-35.

The second half began with eight ties or lead changes, and it looked like Weber State would have to earn every bit of a slump-breaking victory when Idaho took a 49-48 lead with 12:25 left on a Tyler Linhardt post bucket.

With starting center Alex Tew in foul trouble and other backup centers ineffective in various ways, WSU stuck with a small, six-player lineup that used players only 6-foot-6 or shorter: KJ Cunningham, Threatt, Verplancken, Jones, Koehler and Viljami Vartiainen.

It paid dividends as the Wildcats caught Idaho a step behind on drives, grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the second half and swarmed for defensive rebounds on strings of Vandal misses.

“Really proud of our team, especially our veterans, and how they rallied the team,” Duft said. “Our leaders led tonight.”

Threatt drove to the rim on consecutive possessions, Verplancken scored on the break from a Jones pass, Jones grabbed a rebound and drove coast to coast, and Cunningham hit a jump shot to cap a 20-4 run that put WSU up 68-53.

In all, Weber grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and outscored the Vandals 17-4 in second-chance points. The Wildcats also put a stop to Idaho’s run on paint points, taking that margin 20-12 in the second half.

Koehler and Threatt combined for a play late in the game that had Duft pumping his fists more exuberantly than perhaps for any other play this season.

Jones rushed a 3 late in the shot clock that didn’t draw iron, but Koehler tracked the bouncing rebound and saved it on the baseline, throwing a perfect pass to the wing where Threatt drained a 3-pointer with the buzzer sounding.

That put the game away at 78-59 with 3:53 left.

“It just showed that we’re playing to the standard no matter what the time and score is,” Duft said about his reaction to the play. “It would have been easy for Dyson to say ‘eh, we’re up’ and just let that play go, but he didn’t. It was an incredible save and an incredible pass to make.”

Mims’ first-half dunk fest helped him to 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead Idaho (7-11, 1-4). Denker finished with 13 points and five assists, and Linhardt had 11 points.

Weber State quickly turns around for yet another Monday road game, taking on Montana after the Griz vanquished rival Montana State 87-77 on Saturday. WSU will be playing its third game in five days while Montana had Thursday off.

“We’re going to get over there and we’ve got to go find it, you know,” Duft said. “It’s before us and we have to go try to conquer it.”

Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Eastern Washington pulled away from Idaho State in the second half for a 79-67 win to reach 5-0, while Northern Colorado is now 4-1 in league play with a blowout home win of Portland State, who has been without KJ Allen since beating Weber State.


The Weber State women outscored Idaho 17-6 in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to claim their first road win of Big Sky play.

Laura Taylor and Daryn Hickok hit 3-pointers to jumpstart the rally as the Wildcats shot 9 of 16 from behind the arc.

Jadyn Matthews led Weber State (6-13, 3-3 Big Sky) with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Hickok had 15 points and two steals, and Taylor finished with eight points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

WSU hosts Montana (11-5, 3-2) at 6 p.m. Monday.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

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