Sporting an 8-3 conference record, good for second place in the Big Sky, Weber State men’s basketball hits the road to begin the final stretch of the regular season by visiting Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
Southern Utah dealt WSU a home loss on Jan. 5. Would going on the road to avenge that defeat be less of a talking point for that game than outsiders might think?
“It’s more than people might think,” senior center Zach Braxton said. “All our games are important, but when you drop one to somebody at home, you’ve got to go get them on their court. So we’re preparing for it … now we’ve just got to go do it. We’re definitely excited and preparing to give them our best effort, for sure.”
Weber State (14-8, 8-3 Big Sky) is 4-1 on the road in conference play this season and was 7-2 in road games last season.
“We have a saying before we go out on the floor, I tell the guys — or Jeremy (Senglin) used to tell the guys, Joel (Bolomboy) used to tell the guys — ‘it’s just us,’” Braxton said.
“We do go some places in conference and there are some Weber State fans there. But most of the time, it’s us versus them and however many thousand they have in their arena that night. So we preach staying together, staying close and being a tight-knit group, and trying to steal one from that team on their floor. That’s really important to your success in conference play.”
Southern Utah (10-10, 5-6) was 0-3 to open Big Sky play before stunning Weber State at the Dee Events Center. After the game, SUU head coach Todd Simon said: ““For a long time, they’ve been as good as any program and ... in this house, it’s very difficult to win. So for our guys ... it’s a big boost that if you can do it here, you can carry it over and get a little more consistency.”
That seems to have proven true. The Thunderbirds are 5-3 since that start with all three losses coming on the road.
The T-Birds seem pedestrian at times but can get rolling if they get to the free-throw line — which they often do (22nd-best free-throw rate nationally), and where they shoot well (71.2 percent as a team).
Brandon Better and Cam Oluyitan lead SUU in scoring, each at 13.2 points per game, and are each capable of heating up.
Weber State is 10-5 all-time in Cedar City, most recently a 90-80 win in February 2018.
Northern Arizona (7-14, 5-6) has battled well enough since losing by 25 points in Ogden on Jan. 3 that it’s still in contention for a coveted top-five conference finish, which means a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
But those hopes will require better defense from the Lumberjacks. For example, in the teams’ previous meeting, a 77-52 decision, Weber State shot 3 of 23 from the 3-point line and still won comfortably. The Wildcats outscored NAU 46-18 in the paint and did not struggle to score despite being cold from deep.
NAU’s scoring defense is near last in the Big Sky, allowing 77.4 points per game.
Bernie Andre leads NAU in scoring at 13.3 points per game. Ted McCree averages 11.9 per game and shot 8 of 13 from deep in a win Feb. 2 over Idaho.
Weber State is 31-19 all-time in Flagstaff, most recently an 87-55 win in February 2018.