It looked for a time Weber State’s offense had fallen back into cold-shooting struggles Saturday, bricking through a 1-of-11 stretch to fall behind 23-10 at Eastern Washington.
But Cody John and Caleb Nero had other ideas, keying what became a whopping 47-13 run and the Wildcats cruised to an 84-72 win to open conference play in Cheney, Washington.
John and Nero each scored 19 points — with Nero scoring 17 in the second half and totaling a career-high — and Jerrick Harding added 18 to hold off the return of Eastern stretch-big Mason Peatling and his 25 points.
“(Nero) was tremendous in the second half and he hit big shots,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “I thought Caleb was terrific, played with a bunch of confidence, our guys were finding him.
“We need that kind of production off the bench. I thought Doc (Nelson) and Michal Kozak were really good tonight, too.”
John, Nero and Harding combined to shoot 21 of 34 overall, 5 of 7 from deep and 9 of 10 from the foul line.
After Weber scored only 10 points through the game’s first 11 minutes, John and Nelson hit consecutive 3s to start the rally. Harding scored nine points in the final 6:30 of the first half, the last ones coming on a straightaway 3 to put Weber ahead 29-27 and the Wildcats took a 37-33 lead into the break.
But not even halftime could cool down the Wildcats (7-5, 1-0 Big Sky).
Nero and Kozak led the next stretch that became a 20-3 advantage to start the second half. Kozak scored seven points in a three-minute stretch, including a 3-pointer, and Nero began to heat up, scoring from outside and at the rim.
“Our whole message at halftime was the first five minutes, we have to set the tone defensively and if we do, we’ll get transition baskets,” Rahe said. “I thought our guys came out and did that.”
Eastern Washington (2-10, 0-1) came into the game averaging a 10 of 31 clip from the 3-point line but was held to 6 of 18 Saturday.
When Brekkott Chapman nailed a jumper just before the half’s midway point, Weber led 61-38 and, at one point, led the battle of fast-break points 17-5 despite forcing only six turnovers in the game.
Eastern chipped into that lead with several small runs, but John and Nero each inserted a 3-pointer at key moments to keep the Eagles grounded.
Chapman finished with eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Kozak and Zach Braxton each scored seven points.
Weber State assisted on 16 of 31 field goals, led by four dishes from Kozak. WSU has won eight of its last 10 in Cheney and Rahe is 114-6 in games when his team scores 80 or more points.
The Wildcats finish their road trip with a game against Idaho at 3 p.m. Monday.
Weber State women’s basketball used a 23-8 third quarter to build a 54-44 lead but went ice cold in the fourth, losing 64-58 to Eastern Washington to open conference play in Ogden.
WSU shot 2 of 18 in the fourth quarter and EWU outscored the Wildcats 20-4 to claim the win. The Wildcats finished 3 of 18 from 3.
Kayla Watkins totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman also scored 17 points to lead Weber State. Emily Drake added 14 points and Dominique Williams grabbed 15 rebounds.