After a tough road trip, Weber State men’s basketball finally reached a valued lighter portion of its schedule, as far as game quantity goes, and now returns to the hardwood Saturday to host Southern Utah in the first of three consecutive home games.
It’s valued due to well-known injuries nagging several players, including starting guards Jerrick Harding and Kham Davis. Harding was a late scratch last week in what became one of the worst losses in program history at Montana, then he and Davis played despite being questionable two days later at Montana State. The Wildcats tore through the Bobcats to end the first half, then their shots failed in a 2-of-22 3-point shooting display in the second half of another loss.
Now, WSU hosts the SUU Thunderbirds on Saturday after six days off, then will host Portland State after six more days off Saturday, Feb. 29.
It’s a crucial stretch for the eighth-place Wildcats (10-16, 6-9 Big Sky), who still have the door open to reaching fifth place and obtaining a first-round bye in the conference tournament next month. Such a feat feels critical to any potential run in said tournament, given the bangs, bruises and outright injuries WSU is playing with.
While Idaho and Idaho State have plummeted to the bottom of the standings, everything else is still up in the air. Thursday, fifth-place Montana State lost star guard Harald Frey to a sprained ankle during a run in which Portland State eventually took the lead and held on to win. MSU now hosts first-place Montana on Saturday and a loss there would make MSU 8-8.
PSU is in sixth at 8-8 and is off Saturday. In seventh: Southern Utah, now 7-8 in conference play after losing three straight games. WSU would pull into a tie with SUU, with a season sweep in hand, with a win Saturday at the Dee Events Center.
Running such a hypothetical scenario to its conclusion, a win over SUU would be key in starting a late run for Weber State. The Wildcats follow that game by hosting Portland State (14-14, 8-8) and Idaho State (6-18, 3-12) before hitting the road to play Idaho (7-19, 3-12).
Those games set up the regular-season finale at Eastern Washington (18-8, 11-4) on March 7.
Southern Utah still stacks up well defensively, though Weber State seemed to solve that equation back on Jan. 30 when it scored a 75-65 win in a game it led by as much as 19 in the second half. SUU was 5-3 in conference play to that point, but that decision began its current run of 2-5 over the last seven contests.
Slow starts and continued poor outside shooting have plagued the T-Birds, who have failed to reach 70 points during the three-game skid. SUU scored 25 first-half points in a loss to Sacramento State and 23 at Northern Colorado, and are 10 of 44 (22.7%) from the 3-point line in those last three games.
Sixth-year senior forward Dwayne Morgan has struggled to stay on the floor, fouling out in two of the three contests and picking up four fouls in the other, averaging 21 minutes per game in the last three.
John Knight III made an impact Thursday at Northern Colorado, helping SUU fight back from going down 16 to make it a ballgame. His slashing style produced 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting, all 2-pointers.
Cameron Oluyitan leads SUU in scoring at 13.4 points per contest. Knight (12.4) and Morgan (10.0) are others who average double digits.
WSU leads the all-time series 33-10, including a 21-4 mark in Ogden and an 11-4 mark since SUU joined the Big Sky after beating SUU earlier this season. Curiously, the two teams have never split a season series since the T-Birds joined the Big Sky in the 2012-13. WSU has swept five season pairs and SUU two.
Weber State has advertised a “fan appreciation” ticket promotion that sells lower bowl tickets for $7 apiece and upper bowl tickets at $2 each.