Weber State vs. Utah Valley 05

Members of the Weber State Wildcats huddle between plays against Utah Valley on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN — It’s said some lessons are only learned the hard way. In basketball, the hardest way would be through a loss but Weber State is hoping it wised up through Saturday’s 93-87 win at Idaho as it prepares for a Big Sky homestand against Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.

With a 52-30 halftime lead, the Wildcats kept that margin through the opening segment of the second half when Brekkott Chapman drove baseline and dunked over UI’s Scott Blakney for a 60-38 lead.

But Idaho slowly worked back into the game and, when Cameron Tyson drained three tough 3-pointers in the final 1:21, it nearly put the game in doubt. WSU allowed 57 second-half points.

“What we did is kind of fooled ourselves into thinking it’s OK to go through the motions,” senior center Zach Braxton said. “That’s not what Weber State does. We’re not going to do it again. Not this year.”

It was the first time since Dec. 1 that Weber State appeared to take a half of defense off — a game against BYU in which the Wildcats also gave up 57 second-half points. But in that track meet, WSU scored 66 itself that half and won.

Head coach Randy Rahe credited Idaho for playing well and relaxing out of halftime. But he said Idaho gained confidence through easy looks, leading to tougher made baskets, and the Vandals got rolling.

“A lot had to do with our edge or urgency. We didn’t maintain it. We allowed them to get back in it and make it interesting,” Rahe said.

“It can’t happen. I told the guys we play to a certain standard around here, that didn’t meet our standard and we can’t see that again.”

NORTHERN ARIZONA (JAN. 3)

Weber State (8-5, 2-0 Big Sky) opens the new year by hosting Northern Arizona (3-9, 1-1), a team trying to break out of a three-season funk.

NAU finished third in the 2014-15 Big Sky and went 23-15 after playing for the CIT title. In the three-plus seasons since, the ‘Jacks have 22 total wins.

This season hasn’t looked any better, results-wise, but NAU did play eight true road games in its non-conference schedule and Rahe says they look better than the team WSU beat twice by 30-plus points last season.

“They upgraded their talent,” Rahe said. “I see a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. They played well against Montana State, they played Montana really tough for 35 minutes. They are fast, they are athletic and very, very aggressive.”

Some of those new faces: Carlos Hines (13 points per game) and Bernie Andre (11.5) lead the ‘Jacks in scoring. NAU has five road losses to teams rated similarly to or worse than Weber State by an average of 14 points per contest.

WSU has won 18 of its last 20 against NAU.

SOUTHERN UTAH (JAN. 5)

Southern Utah (5-6, 0-2) visits the Dee Events Center on Saturday after a rough start to conference play. The Thunderbirds played Montana somewhat well (lost by 13) but were surprisingly blown out by 30 against Montana State.

UNLV transfer and senior Dwayne Morgan averaged 13 points through four games but is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Boise State transfer and stretch big Cameron Oluyitan leads SUU in scoring at 13 points per game.

The T-Birds beat Seattle and nearly took down UNLV early this season but have only been competitive in one of their last six contests.

Weber State is 10-2 against SUU since it joined the Big Sky.

Both games tip off at 7 p.m.

Brett Hein can be contacted at bhein@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @bhein3/@WeberHQ and at facebook.com/WeberStateSports.

Brett Hein is the sports editor and covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner.

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