OGDEN — In the first half, Jerrick Harding didn’t yet give an encore performance from Thursday’s 44-point outburst and, in a good sign for Weber State men’s basketball, the Wildcats played winning basketball anyway.
Harding’s burst came to open the second half in a run that ultimately buried Northern Arizona and Weber State held on to a 76-70 win Saturday at the Dee Events Center — making the Wildcats winners in four of their last five contests.
Early on, it was Weber’s game in the paint that threw a wet towel on a Northern Arizona squad that came to Ogden as winners in six of their last seven games.
Michal Kozak scored Weber’s first points by putting back an offensive rebound. From there, the Wildcats scored 20 points in the paint while keeping the Lumberjacks to a series of one-and-dones offensively, rebounding 17 of NAU’s 20 field goal misses for a 30-24 halftime lead.
“I think our guys did a great job finding us inside,” WSU freshman center Tim Fuller said. “I think we’re an unselfish group and we’re able to adjust with the game plan.”
Then Harding caught fire. The program’s newly minted all-time scoring king came out of the halftime locker room and buried four 3-pointers, scoring 14 points in the first eight minutes of the second half. That was part of a 20-7 run that put Weber up 50-31.
“We know he’s going to get his and he knows that, too. Even if he’s not scoring, they still have to focus on him,” Kozak said. “Everyone’s got to produce. At the end, it was a whole team effort.”
NAU slowly chipped away at that deficit by hitting shots it had been missing, shooting 7 of 14 from 3 in the second half.
“I thought Bernie Andre got them going, he hit some shots and got their juices flowing,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “On the other hand, we took a few early shots that we hadn’t been taking ... we took tough shots and missed them and they just kind of whittled the thing down.”
Kozak and Cody John hit 3s to hold the runs at bay and, with 1 minute left, Harding hit a runner to make it 69-61.
But Cam Satterwhite hit a 3 going the other way, took contact and made his free throw to cut it to 69-65 just seconds later — putting the heat on Weber State to make winning plays down the stretch in another close home game.
Harding, Kozak and KJ Cunningham then combined to shoot 7 of 8 from the foul line in the final minute to hold off the NAU push.
Harding led all scorers with 24 points after scoring 20 in the second half. That moves him to 2,123 career points, passing Idaho’s Orlando Lightfoot for fourth all-time in Big Sky history. He needs 47 points to pass Eastern Washington’s Bodgan Bliznyuk for third place and is well within reach of Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis for second.
Kozak totaled 14 points and eight rebounds, and Fuller added 10 points and six rebounds. Cody John scored 11 points for Weber State (10-14, 6-7 Big Sky).
Kham Davis totaled five points, seven rebounds and three assists, and Dima Zdor added six points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
Andre heated up in the second half and scored 24 points for Northern Arizona (13-9, 7-6). Cam Shelton added 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, but Weber held leading scorer Brooks DeBisschop to 13 points and forced him into five turnovers.
Weber State now moves on to face Montana and Montana State on the road next week.