A rash of turnovers to start the game, better defensive pressure from the team that thrives on it, the opponent shooting above its 3-point average and Weber State men’s basketball shooting below its average — and, a 17-point deficit.
Despite that, the Wildcats clawed back to take the lead in the second of two games at Portland State, only to see PSU claim a 74-72 victory in the waning moments Sunday afternoon at Viking Pavilion.
Trailing 51-34 with 17:12 left, WSU mounted a prolonged 33-11 run, helped by several Zahir Porter drives that led to buckets for himself or others.
On the back end, the Wildcats held the Vikings to 10 straight empty possessions. A bucket inside from Dontay Bassett gave Weber its first lead of the game and, on a Porter trip to the free-throw line, took a 67-62 lead with 7:07 to go.
Paris Dawson hit a 3-pointer to end an eight-minute field goal drought for the home team but Isiah Brown scored on a driving banker to put WSU up 72-67 with 2:22 remaining.
Those were the Wildcats’ final points.
Khalid Thomas buried a deep, contested 3-pointer, making PSU 8 of 22 from deep — a tepid 36.4% but three makes above their 22% season average through four games.
James Scott completed his high-scoring night by bullying into the paint, banking in a tough shot and drawing a foul. His made free throw put Portland State up 73-72 with 31 seconds left.
After a WSU timeout, the Vikings came out in a zone defense but the Wildcats answered with dribble penetration, leading to a dish to Cody Carlson at the rim — but he lost the ball going up in traffic.
Dawson took a foul but made only his second of a free-throw pair for a 74-72 PSU advantage.
With 4.1 seconds left, Weber State ran Porter on a curl up the court. He picked up a screen at midcourt, dribbled into and across the paint, put up a reverse scoop that bounded once, then twice, on the rim as time expired.
The ball fell out; the comeback bid naught.
“We executed what we wanted to execute, got him going downhill and got to the rim. He just mishandled it a little it and the ball still almost went in. We just didn’t get a big stop in the last minute and a half,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said.
Brown led Weber State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, and made the team’s only 3-pointer in a 1-of-11 effort, a make that got the Wildcats inside single digits at 61-52 during the massive run.
Porter totaled 13 points, five rebounds and five assists; Dillon Jones added 12 points, four assists and four steals, Carlson scored 11 points and Bassett had 10 off the bench.
In addition to the cold night from 3, WSU shot 19 of 27 from the foul line, three makes below its 82% average entering the game.
After a spate of offensive rebounds helped PSU extend a 12-point lead to 17 early in the second half, WSU began securing the boards and limited turnovers — 12 giveaways in the first 10 minutes of the game, just three in the final 30 minutes — to spark the run.
“That looked more like our team. We came all the way back, took the lead, and it came down to them making a shot and we missed a shot,” Rahe said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity because we did play so damn hard.”
Scott racked up 26 points to lead Portland State (2-3, 1-1). Thomas added 20 points and the pair scored in crunch time to deliver the win.
A 28-point win followed by a two-point loss appears to highlight the new dynamic of playing two-game series in the same gym during conference play.
“It’s obvious it’s going to be tough to be a team twice on their floor, but that’s the nature of what we’re in,” Rahe said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity and I’m disappointed we didn’t finish it. But that’s the way it is, and we’re going to grow from this and get better.”
Weber State next plays BYU at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The game will air on BYUtv.