For 20 minutes, it looked like Weber State would have enough to compete with and perhaps defeat San Diego on Tuesday night, a team returning four seniors and expected to be a tough out in the West Coast Conference.
Instead, without Jerrick Harding, the Wildcats could not keep up with red-hot Isaiah Pineiro and lost 83-66 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion to open the 2018-19 season in San Diego.
With stifling defense, Weber State jumped to a 16-5 lead midway through the first half and led 32-25 at halftime.
But the Toreros claimed the second half 58-34 and won going away.
“We got tired. That first half — we were low on numbers today,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “I thought our guys, that first half they played their tails off. We looked like the kind of team we want to look like. But we didn’t have enough guys to rotate in and we got tired.
“We’re going to play this way and it’s going to be really good for us, but we’ve gotta have that depth.”
Harding, a junior who averaged 22 points per game last season, missed the game with a sprained ankle. Cody John shot 9 of 15 to score 22 points as the leading scorer. Freshman Israel Barnes added 12 points.
John played 37 minutes in his first game in more than a year.
“Cody played really well. It was good to see that,” Rahe said. “He looked like his old self and played with a lot of confidence. That’s going to be big for our team.”
Barnes played 32 minutes and Caleb Nero 29 in their first games as freshmen. Barnes started in place of Harding.
“It was really good for those freshmen tonight. They had to play,” Rahe said. “We had three freshmen out there a whole bunch and kind of have them grow up by throwing them in the fire. They’re going to be good players. They came out and weren’t scared.”
Brekkott Chapman scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds before leaving the game late with leg cramps, which Rahe said he began experiencing at halftime.
Doc Nelson also left the game in the second half with foot pain, Rahe said.
But San Diego opened the game cold and, at one point, Weber’s defense created four turnovers in two minutes’ time. A 3-pointer from Israel Barnes and a three-point play from Doc Nelson put WSU up 16-5 with 9:45 left in the first half.
Later, the Toreros missed four shots on the same possession — which made them 6 of 24 from the field — and Nero hit a 3 to put Weber up 21-13.
John added a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to give WSU the 32-25 halftime margin.
San Diego shot 0 of its first 8 from deep and 11 of 33 from the floor in the first half.
But not only did the cool shooting not last, it got put in the microwave and heated up instantly.
Pineiro, a transfer from Portland State, scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half. He hit 3 of 6 from deep for the game and his team was 7 of 10 from behind the arc in the second half.
The Toreros blistered the nets for a 21-of-32 clip in the second half and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. It took them only four minutes to erase the deficit and take the lead in the second half. It was the only lead change of the night.
“(San Diego) is a very good basketball team, a bunch of seniors, they’re going to be good,” Rahe said. “I saw some really positive things in the first half. They just didn’t have the same juice and the same energy after that.
“It’s going to take a while. We knew that. It always does. But I’m excited about what we could become.”
Weber State returns home Friday, Nov. 9, to play Bethesda.