Nothing went right for Weber State men’s basketball at Southern Utah, but especially rebounding.
Harrison Butler scored 19 points for SUU, including a late dagger layup, grabbed 13 rebounds and led the Thunderbirds to a 65-53 victory Thursday in Cedar City.
WSU center Zach Braxton badly turned his right ankle with 10 minutes left, was helped off the floor and did not return. Brekkott Chapman, one of the country’s best rebounders, fouled out with five minutes remaining.
Offensive rebounds were already the difference in SUU’s lead late in the game — both teams were awful in all phases of shooting the basketball — when a Jerrick Harding jumper cut WSU’s deficit to 58-53 with one minute left.
But with those two big men out, the Thunderbirds pounced after WSU was forced to start fouling.
Dre Marin made a free throw, then missed his second. That was rebounded by Maizen Faucett, his sixth offensive board. He was fouled and also made his first and missed his second — the latter rebounded by Butler, who laid in a basket to put the game away with SUU up nine.
Southern Utah (11-10, 6-6 Big Sky) won the battle of second-chance points 11-0. It also led for all 39 minutes, 31 seconds after opening the game up 2-0.
It’s the second time SUU has swept a regular-season series from Weber State, the previous coming in 2014-15 when WSU finished eighth in the Big Sky.
Weber State (14-9, 8-4) shot 16 of 49 from the field (32.7 percent), 3 of 14 from deep (21.4 percent) and an uncharacteristic 18 of 28 from the foul line (64.3 percent).
Harding, averaging 24 points per game for WSU over the last eight contests, finished with only eight after missing his first 10 shots. He was 2 of 14 from the field.
WSU head coach Randy Rahe said postgame that Harding did not practice this week after rolling his ankle in the Feb. 2 win over Sacramento State — an injury he had taped up and played through to score 25 points — and said others were also limited in practice this week.
Harding’s first bucket came with 6:07 left to cap a 9-1 run and pull Weber to within three, 48-45. Chapman fouled out shortly after, and Fausett and Butler each scored on offensive rebounds to put SUU back up 56-47 with 3:33 left to play.
“We worked really hard to get the game back into contention and then we let two of those go for scores, and that’s unacceptable,” Rahe said. “You have to do better than that on the road.”
Michal Kozak led WSU with 12 points, including seven straight in the run that preceded Harding’s first basket. Cody John totaled 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Chapman added six points and 10 rebounds.
Marin scored 15 points for SUU, shooting 3 of 4 from deep. The T-Birds were marginally better shooting the ball, going 37.9 percent overall, 24 percent from deep and 60.9 at the line.
Rahe said Braxton turned his ankle “really really good” and that it’s “not a great one.” Weber State may have to regroup without the senior center as it travels to Northern Arizona at 2 p.m. Saturday.