OGDEN — For the third straight game, Weber State men’s basketball struggled to score in the first half and couldn’t recover.
This re-run came at home. Utah Valley scored its first win at the Dee Events Center in seven tries, evening the all-time series 6-6 with a 75-63 victory Saturday.
After scoring 20 in the first half at Fresno State and 27 against Utah State, the Wildcats (5-5) mustered 23 first-half points Saturday. But dogged defense couldn’t keep WSU in it this time — last week’s games resulted in halftime deficits of 10 and 12 points, but UVU led 41-23 at the half thanks to 18-of-33 shooting and 26 points in the paint.
Brekkott Chapman led Weber’s effort from start to finish, totaling game highs with 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. He shot 8 of 11 (73 percent) for the game; all other Wildcats shot 14 of 49 (29 percent).
“I think it’s 100 percent our effort on the defensive end,” Chapman said of Saturday’s woes. “We gave up easy buckets in the first half and when you do that, your energy goes down, you don’t run through your plays as fast and you don’t get the same shot quality.”
Jake Toolson was the engine for Utah Valley (8-4), totaling 19 points and 12 rebounds. The 50-percent 3-point shooter made 3 of 5 from deep, including two daggers from the corner in the second half. The first came to stop an 8-0 WSU run and the second put UVU up by 18 again with nine minutes left, which proved to be too large of a hole.
“We’re obviously struggling offensively, can’t seem to get shots to fall right now,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “This has been a hard two weeks, we’re playing really good teams.
“We put ourselves out there ... you run the risk of dropping some games. Don’t like it. Hate it. Want to win every one,” he said. “But I also know ... we’ve hit some adversity, we’ll really grow from it because I’ve got high-quality kids in there who want to be good.”
Of 353 Division-I teams, Ken Pomeroy rates Weber State’s strength of schedule at No. 87. Only two teams in the Big Sky other than Weber State — Montana and Northern Colorado — rate as high or better than Utah Valley. None are within 40 spots of Fresno, BYU or Utah State.
After both teams combined for a meager eight fouls in the first half, Weber got in the bonus with 12 minutes left in the second half and shot 13 of 20 at the line from that point. Those trips, and a spark from Dima Zdor off the bench, helped chip back into the deficit again.
Jerrick Harding, who was held to 10 points and sat for a stretch in the second half, made a scoop shot and a free-throw to make it 66-56 with 3:05 left, but that’s as close as it would get.
“Everybody’s loading up on him and it’s been hard on him,” Rahe said of Harding, who has averaged 10.6 points in three contests since scoring 30 against BYU. “He’s a great kid, tough as hell, but he’s trying to figure out how to play against how teams are playing us.”
Zdor totaled four points, four rebounds and an emphatic block of Baylee Steele in five minutes down the stretch.
“Brekkott played almost the whole second half ... and I wanted to get Dima out there,” Rahe said. “I’m glad I did. Dima did some things for us and I needed to see that from him.”
Weber State closes its non-conference schedule by hosting Delaware State (2-8) on Saturday, Dec. 22. Conference play begins Dec. 29 and 31 with a road trip to Eastern Washington and Idaho.