SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in eight years, Weber State men’s basketball was on the same court with the University of Utah and, early, the teams went toe to toe.
But Utah turned a tie game into a double-digit advantage early in the second half and went on to beat the Wildcats 60-49 on Saturday afternoon at Vivint Smart Home Arena in the final game of the Beehive Classic for both teams.
“I was real pleased with our effort ... these guys, we competed hard,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “We just missed open shots.”
Kham Davis fueled Weber State (3-6) early, splashing home two 3-pointers and finishing a transition dunk in the opening minutes. Tim Fuller turned away Both Gach at the rim and Cody John scored going the other way, giving WSU an early 12-6 lead.
WSU’s defensive efforts forced Utah into six turnovers in the first seven minutes and Weber eventually won the turnover battle 12-9.
Timmy Allen picked the Utes (8-2) up, scoring eight points during an 11-3 run that helped Utah tie the game at 20-20 with 6:45 left in the first half.
Neither team shot well — Utah was 34.5% from the field and Weber 33.3% — but the Wildcats went especially cold late in the first half and the Utes took advantage.
In fact, after Davis’ two 3s in the opening five minutes, WSU made just two more from deep in the final 35 minutes, finishing 4 of 18.
Utah went on an 11-0 run before Jerrick Harding hit a 3, then assisted Davis on a transition dunk in the final minute of the half to make it 31-25.
But Riley Battin scored four quick points to open the second frame and a transition dunk from Branden Carlson made it a 17-5 Utah run across halftime, making it 37-25.
WSU couldn’t make up ground from there until finishing the game on a 7-0 run by forcing a few turnovers and getting easy transition buckets for Davis and John.
Harding led Weber State with 17 points. John totaled 15 points and five rebounds, and Davis totaled 11 points and six rebounds. Fuller led WSU with seven rebounds.
Unlike its season-opening game at Utah State, Weber found good looks throughout the game and had opportunities to score, especially at the rim. Rahe said Utah’s length might have bothered his team a little but otherwise diagnosed an offense creating the looks they wanted.
“I thought we executed well, we moved the ball well ... we just missed the shots,” Rahe said.
Harding, who finished 5 of 14, agreed.
“A lot of them were wide open. That’s on us, we’ve got to hit shots,” Harding said. “We’ve got to be better.”
Allen led the way for Utah, scoring 19 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing four assists in the absence of usual starting point guard Rylan Jones. Battin was part of a trio of Utes to score nine points and led the game with 10 rebounds.
The teams shot a combined 9 of 43 (20.9%) from the 3-point line.
“We held that team to 34%, they average 51%,” Rahe said. “I thought our guys fought and competed their tails off. Showed a lot of toughness, a lot of grit against bigger guys. I was really pleased, defensively. We were flying around.”
Weber State returns home to host Bethesda on Tuesday, Dec. 17, before finishing its nonconference schedule at BYU on Saturday, Dec. 21.
Weber State is unlikely to play Utah again in the foreseeable future with the Beehive Classic coming to an end.
Rahe said it’s “great” for WSU to play a power-conference foe like Utah.
“What it does is, it exposes your weaknesses so you can go back and correct them. And you’ve got to compete and play at a high level to hang with them ... it’s good for us, it’s good stuff even though sometimes you don’t get the results.
“We’re going to grow from it, embrace it, and we’re just going to keep getting better and when league starts ... we’ll hopefully be where we want to be.”
Rahe said he wasn’t privy to why it was decided to end the Beehive Classic.
“It’s good for us. I love coming down here and playing in-state schools ... the kids love playing in this arena,” Rahe said. “I’m glad they did it. For us, it was a pretty good situation.”