OGDEN — Two halves.
That’s what Jerrick Harding said his team needed to give after Thursday’s comeback bid against Montana fell short. And that’s what Weber State men’s basketball gave to Montana State on Saturday night.
Harding scored a game-high 28 points, even after turning an ankle during a collision with Harald Frey, and was one of five Wildcats in double figures to deliver Weber State to a 94-82 win at the Dee Events Center.
“This is a good win for us ... They are the hardest team in our league to guard,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “I was really pleased with our guys tonight. It’s what our team should look like ... we played with a free mind tonight.”
It’s WSU’s 11th straight win over the Bobcats and moves the program to 52-7 all-time against MSU in Ogden. It also separates Weber State from Montana State in the standings, giving WSU lone claim to third place and moving it one game back of Northern Colorado (17-9, 11-4 Big Sky) — who lost at Eastern Washington on Saturday — with five games left.
The Wildcats (16-10, 10-5) inundated the Bobcats (12-13, 9-6) with an unending string of buckets on several occasions and Montana State was defenseless to stop the deluge. WSU shot 34 of 63 for the game, including 13 of 26 from deep.
One such barrage came to open the contest as the Wildcats shrugged off their tendency to start slow. Brekkott Chapman hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight early points, Harding added another trey and WSU ripped a 14-0 run to take a 19-6 lead.
Chapman totaled 14 points, 14 rebounds and was 4 of 6 from behind the arc — giving him a 9-of-14 mark from 3 this week.
The relentless Tyler Hall wouldn’t let WSU run away with it just yet. The senior scoring phenom scored nine points in a stretch to close the half, including a mid-range fadeaway at the buzzer that gave the visiting Bobcats a 40-39 lead at the break.
Hall would finish with 25 points and three 3-pointers, giving him 400 treys for his career. He’s the 17th player to hit that mark in Division I history. But WSU did force him into a 9-of-21 shooting night and 3 of 10 from deep.
“He’s tough, he’s going to keep coming, he’s going to get his shots,” Cody John said about Hall. “We just have to make him take tough 2s ... he’s a good player, so we just need to keep coming, don’t let down.”
The final critical run came midway through second half. Hall drove the lane, got fouled by John as he scored and made his free throw on the other side of a timeout to cut WSU’s lead to 63-61.
In a flurry over the next 2:36, Chapman hit a 3, then Caleb Nero, then Harding and again Nero. That helped WSU to 30 points in the first 10 minutes of the half and a 75-63 lead with 8:25 left.
The teams traded minor runs from there — MSU also being fueled by 25 points from Frey — until the final horn.
Nero tied his career high with 19 points.
“My team needs me to be aggressive,” Nero said. “I’ve been in a slump these past few games, I’ve just been trying to hang in there and help us get wins.”
Harding left the game with the aforementioned ankle sprain before that final run and returned during it, but spent the rest of the game hobbled. He scored seven points after his injury.
Senior center Zach Braxton missed his third consecutive game with an ankle injury. Rahe said Braxton is closing in on a return but didn’t know for certain which game would be his next.
Freshman center Dima Zdor got his first career start Saturday, grabbing four rebounds in 10 minutes. Rahe said he made the move so Michal Kozak could provide experience off the bench with Weber’s rotation currently at eight players, four of them true freshmen. Sophomore guard Doc Nelson will remain out for several more weeks.
Kozak scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 28 minutes. John scored 18 points and dished five assists.
Weber State next moves to a stretch of road games and a lighter schedule, playing at Sacramento State on Feb. 21, at Northern Colorado on Feb. 28 and at Idaho State on March 4 before closing at home against Idaho (March 7) and Eastern Washington (March 9).