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Weber State basketball: Montana decides game with run to open 2nd half, wins 77-62

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Jan 22, 2024

Tanner Ecker, Montana Athletics

Weber State's Dillon Jones (2) shoots over Montana's Te'Jon Sawyer, right, as WSU's Handje Tamba, left, looks on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Missoula, Mont.

When Weber State played first-place Eastern Washington last Thursday, Montana had the night off. So Monday night’s WSU-UM matchup was Weber’s third game in five days, flying from Ogden to Missoula on Sunday when the Griz were already back home late Saturday night after playing Montana State in Bozeman.

So one of the league’s toughest road games became that much tougher, and it showed in players’ legs to open the second half Monday night.

With a 36-30 lead, Montana blocked three WSU shots and forced three turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half, good for an 11-2 run when Griz guard Aanen Moody knocked down a free-throw-line jumper. That made the score 47-32 with 14:40 left in the game.

It took all the air out of an 18-point first half from Dillon Jones, which he capped with a steal and fastbreak dunk that had WSU’s deficit to 27-26.

So, adding up the numbers, Montana’s spark to start the second half made for a 20-6 rally after the Jones steal and dunk, and the Wildcats chased that deficit for the rest of the night, losing 77-62 and dropping the fourth of its last five games.

“You can survive runs in the first half but in the second half, it’s hard to survive when they come out like that,” WSU head coach Eric Duft said. “It felt like the harder we tried, the slower we moved. We just didn’t move very good, we were kind of stuck in mud. We tried hard, but we weren’t very sharp. Tough night. Our guards have got to play better.”

Jones scored a career-high 30 points while also totaling seven rebounds, three assists and three steals for Weber State (12-8, 3-4 Big Sky). Junior center Alex Tew added a career-high 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, adding six rebounds, and Dyson Koehler chipped in 11 points. Those three shot 19 of 36 from the field; everyone else was 2 of 18.

Montana (13-6, 4-2) entered the game as the nation’s best 3-point shooting team in January but shot just 7 of 22 on Monday. Weber State also outscored the Griz 28-26 in the paint.

But Brandon Whitney and Aanen Moody could not be stopped in the midrange as well as the paint, Dischon Thomas peppered in some baseline jumpers, and Montana shot 20 of 27 on two-pointers. Whitney finished with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, Moody with 18 points and Thomas with 16. Laolu Oke added 11 rebounds.

“We knew this would be a real challenge mentally (with the travel), and the psychology of the game was probably in their favor, we beat them so bad at our place,” Duft said. “They have a really good team. They have six seniors … they make you pay when you make mistakes, and we did.”

WSU committed seven turnovers in the second half to Montana’s three.

The closest it got after Montana’s 20-6 run was 64-55 with 4:19 left. Jones made four free throws on one trip after a technical foul to UM coach Travis DeCuire and Koehler scored on one of his four offensive rebounds to create a possible margin entering the final stretch.

But out of the final media timeout, WSU fouled Oke on an offensive rebound and made his free throws, and Thomas made a 3-pointer on the next trip to put the game away.

Weber State next hosts Idaho State (7-13, 2-5) on Saturday, the two teams who have to this point played the most conference games with seven.

“We have 11 games left, and we have 11 one-game seasons. That’s how we’re going to approach it,” Duft said. “We need some time off … get our legs back. There’s a long ways to go in this thing.”


In Ogden, the Weber State women looked to win four of their last five and battled to a 20-19 game in the second quarter.

Then the Griz blew the doors off, going on a 24-4 run to lead 44-23 early in the third quarter, while holding WSU to six second-quarter points while scoring 33 of their own in the third frame — turning into a larger blowout than WSU suffered in Missoula earlier this season.

Weber State (6-14, 3-4 Big Sky) got 13 points and three steals from Daryn Hickok, 12 points from Jadyn Matthews, and nine rebounds from Taylor Smith.

Montana (12-5, 4-2) had six double-figure scorers, led by Mack Konig’s 16 points. She and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw each hit four 3-pointers as UM made 16 as a team, while Weber State made just 19 total field goals.


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