OGDEN — For about 12 minutes Saturday it felt like Weber State men’s basketball was stuck in a recurring nightmare.
Hosting Delaware State, the Wildcats came out cold for the fourth straight game. They started 4 of 13 from the field and turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 minutes.
But Dima Zdor and a cast of reserves provided a spark off the bench, Jerrick Harding came to life for 36 points and a prolonged run set the table for an 83-69 win at the Dee Events Center to close non-conference play.
“Last Saturday night, we kind of forgot to play for our team and our teammates,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “We lost our way a little bit. So we had some tough workouts going on, some tough love going on. We had to snap back to reality and our guys responded really well.”
Harding shot 5 of 10 from the 3-point line and 13 of 13 from the free-throw line to tally his second-highest scoring total of his career. It was his seventh career 30-plus point game and fourth in his last 11 games, eclipsing in one game the 32 points he scored in his last three contests.
“My big thing was just keeping my energy up, even if I wasn’t making shots,” Harding said.
“I’m a junior, I’m a leader on the team, so I have to pick my teammates up when we’re down. I feel like I did a good job of that tonight and have to keep it going forward.”
Harding was stopped short of a school record for single game free-throw shooting. Record-holder Jimmy DeGraffenried shot 15 of 15 from the line in a 1996 game.
Brekkott Chapman produced his third straight stat-stuffing effort with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. In the last three games, he’s averaged 15.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and three blocks.
For all the offense that came later, the first 12 minutes were a slog and the Wildcats (6-5) trailed 18-13, committing nine turnovers to that point. That started to change when the big-man Zdor came off the bench to put back two offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions.
Ricky “Doc” Nelson and Caleb Nero also added fuel from the guard line during the stretch. Those players, and the re-emergence of Harding’s instant offense, helped a 27-6 run that stretched into the second half and put WSU up 44-28.
Nelson finished with five assists, capped when he dished a no-looker to a cutting and dunking Zach Braxton for WSU’s final points of the afternoon.
Cody John added 10 points and three assists. Braxton had eight points and rebounds each, and Zdor finished with six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes.
Weber State assisted on 14 of 26 field goals and turned the ball over six times in the final 28 minutes. The Wildcats were 23 of 27 from the free-throw line.
The Hornets (3-9) got 23 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Larkin in the loss.
WSU takes a week off before opening Big Sky play on the road at Eastern Washington (Dec. 29) and Idaho (Dec. 31).