OGDEN — If you’d missed an entire season of Weber State men’s basketball but saw Saturday afternoon’s season-opening exhibition against Western Colorado, you’d never know you missed a pivot back from a drastic change.
The Wildcats, who used transition pushes and motion offenses last season, threw to the post relentlessly to open Saturday’s game. When sophomore big man Dima Zdor first checked out, he had 10 points and WSU led 17-0.
Weber State cruised from there and crushed the Division II Mountaineers 94-56.
“It just feels good to get out there with the new guys and just get a feel for each other. I feel like we all played hard,” senior guard Cody John said.
WSU went up 20-0 before Western Colorado, who lost last night at Colorado State, got on the board with a free throw. The Mountaineers’ first field goal came 10 minutes into the game when a 3-pointer made it 24-4.
Zdor finished his night with 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Freshman Tim Fuller backed that up with 11 points, four rebounds and three of his own blocks. The two combined to shoot 13 of 20 from the floor.
It was all part of a return to Randy Rahe’s basketball persona that will see the Wildcats run many offensive sets — different from years past but meant to bring WSU back to what had become its identity.
“It’s good because everyone is benefiting off it this year. We’re getting everybody involved,” John said. “We’ve got a bunch of weapons, the ball is moving.”
John started at point guard and added 16 points of his own to lead WSU with Zdor, adding seven assists and zero turnovers.
Kham Davis, Israel Barnes and Michal Kozak started with John and Zdor.
Weber State maintained its early lead throughout the first half. Davis and freshman Austin Galuppo peppered in a few 3-pointers around the plentiful inside finishes, and the Wildcats went up 48-21 at halftime.
With only nine scholarship players available, Weber used all 11 players it dressed. KJ Cunningham scored 4 points and dished four assists backing up John at point guard and Donatas Kupsas added 6 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Kozak.
Kozak dropped in a late 3-pointer to finish with 13 points and six rebounds. Barnes scored 10 points, Galuppo eight and Davis six on two 3s in the first half.
“For where we’re at right now with all the new stuff we put in, I think the guys are executing it pretty well,” Rahe said. “We’ve worked really hard at it, we’ve got a lot of reps … we’re better than we were last week when we played Denver in the scrimmage, it’s starting to smooth out a little bit.”
Walk-on players Brenden Morris and Mitch Brizee checked in with three minutes left. Brizee scored four points and Morris quickly tallied one rebound, one assist and one block.
His assist was a long, leading pass to a breaking Galuppo, who went up for a dunk but was deterred at the last moment. He dropped it in for a layup instead.
WSU only played 11 players because senior Jerrick Harding, sophomore Bouki Diakite and freshman Judah Jordan did not dress. Each is finishing rehab on injuries, bumps and bruises.
Weber held Western Colorado to 19 of 59 shooting (32.2%) while shooting 38 of 70 (54.3%) itself. WSU added an 8 of 21 mark from the 3-point line and shot 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.
Now, after the scrimmage at Denver and Saturday’s exhibition, the games start to count. Weber State opens the regular season with a trip to Logan to face No. 17 Utah State on Friday. WSU has won two of the last three against Utah State.
“It’s big. That’s what we want, we want the best competition,” John said. “We’re just going to go out there and compete, show everyone what we can do.”
NERO TO TRANSFER
Another reason for Weber State’s short bench: Caleb Nero did not dress because the sophomore guard recently came to the decision to transfer. Rahe said Nero would remain at school and with the team through the end of the current semester.
Nero, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, played in all 33 games as a freshman last season, twice scoring a career high of 19 points during Big Sky games.
SHAW STARTS FOR WCU
Weber High alumnus Connor Shaw got the start for the Mountaineers on Saturday, which meant his name was called during starting lineups in front of 20 or so family and friends who sat behind the Western Colorado bench.