The 70-mile bus trip from Cheney, Washington, to Moscow, Idaho, didn’t cool down Weber State men’s basketball for Monday’s New Year’s Eve matinee against the Idaho Vandals.
But Idaho heated up after halftime and a 25-point lead gave way to a second-half battle for Weber State, which scratched out a 93-87 win at the free-throw line.
Jerrick Harding totaled 24 points to lead the Wildcats. WSU used a size advantage in the post as Brekkott Chapman totaled 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Zach Braxton added 18 points and seven rebounds.
After Weber State built a 52-30 halftime lead, Idaho shot 7 of 10 from the 3-point line in the second half, led by Cameron Tyson’s 20 points in the frame, to pile up 57 points.
“Defensively, we were really high energy ... and that led to good offense,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said about the first half.
“Probably the worst thing that happened was we went up 22 at half. Even though we talk about it and talk about it, human nature is ... ‘we’re good.’ No, we’re not good.”
Tyson finished with 27 points and Trevon Allen added 24 on 11-of-15 shooting for Idaho (3-10, 0-2 Big Sky). Those two keyed a second-half flurry that cut the score to 80-71 with three minutes left.
Tyson hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:21, all strongly contested by Weber defenders to no avail, but Weber closed the game with 8-of-8 free-throw shooting to hold off the charge.
After outscoring Eastern Washington 74-49 over the final 29 minutes Saturday, WSU (8-5, 2-0) came out as hot Monday. The Wildcats pounded the paint early, then peppered 3s around the arc and pushed the pace to get Idaho on its heels.
Israel Barnes, who played only seven minutes Saturday, burst out of the gate with eight points and four rebounds in the first six minutes.
“(Barnes) was huge tonight,” Rahe said. “He’s such a tough kid and confident kid, I thought the way he started ignited our team. It gave everyone else a lot of confidence.”
Weber built a 41-16 lead and, at one point, was shooting 12 of 18 overall and 6 of 8 from deep. It went to the half up 52-30 when Harding hit a jumper at the buzzer.
“We came in here in the first half and punched them in the mouth, and they made a run coming back,” Rahe said. “But I’m proud of our kids, I really am. We could’ve just dropped the whole thing.
“I would’ve liked to have beat them by 25, but it’s conference play, it’s not going to happen always. Idaho’s got good players, they’re going to fight back ... you’ve just got to grind.”
Weber State’s busy start to conference play continues this week as the Wildcats host Northern Arizona (Jan. 3) and Southern Utah (Jan. 5) at the Dee Events Center to make for four games in eight days.