RENO, Nev. — Nothing went right for Weber State on Thursday afternoon.
Northern Colorado dictated their Big Sky tournament quarterfinal matchup and sprinted to an 80-55 win at the Reno Events Center.
The 25-point loss matches the biggest loss for the Wildcats (20-11) in their conference tournament history and is the worst conference tournament loss in the Randy Rahe era.
The Bears (22-11) held Weber State to a season-worst 34.6 percent shooting from the field and a season-low scoring output.
“Our guys did a really good job of understanding the game plan,” UNCo head coach Jeff Linder said. “If you allow them to get 3s, that’s when they get really dangerous ... We did a really good job on Zach Braxton ... I thought our guys did a really good job of stepping up to the challenge.”
Sophomore guard Jerrick Harding and junior forward Brekkott Chapman each tallied 18 points, but help beyond that was hard to find. The two Wildcats combined for 18-of-24 shooting from the field, while the rest of the team shot 5 of 28.
“We didn’t come out with enough energy,” Harding said. “We’ve been working hard all season. We didn’t expect to lose this game.”
Weber State led 7-5 early, but the Bears put together a 20-2 run as senior Andre Spight exploded for 12 straight points and the defense frustrated the Wildcat offense.
Spight finished with a game-high 25 points.
Northern Colorado made a tremendous effort to deny Harding and senior guard Ryan Richardson. Harding had four points at halftime while Richardson was held scoreless for the game.
“We had a hard time making plays off the bounce, which they force you to do,” Rahe said. “I thought we got in a bad way, and I think it snowballed. I think it affected both ends of the floor.
“I’m real proud of this team. This one’s tough, but overall I’m proud of what this team’s accomplished.”
Chapman asserted himself with 11 first-half points to try and make up the difference, but the Wildcats trailed 42-26 at halftime, their largest halftime deficit of the season.
Things went from bad to worse for Weber State in the second half. The Wildcats made only one field goal in the first 10 minutes while the Bears continued to score, leading by as many as 29 before claiming the 80-55 win.
“I think we’ve been getting a little bit low on juice the last week or so,” Rahe said. “We’ve only been playing seven guys. It’s not where we wanted to be three weeks ago, but I thought our guys came out and were ready to play. At this time of the year, fatigue sets in, and we’ve had a limited group.”
Northern Colorado will face regular-season champion and one-seed Montana at 6:35 p.m. MST Friday in the conference semifinals.
At 20-11, Weber State seems like a potential invitee to a tournament like the CIT, but the school said that possibility won’t be decided for a few days.