MEN'S BASKETBALL: Weber State 72, UND 60
Weber State couldn't ask for a better start. Nor could the Wildcats ask fora better finish to the first half -- and beyond. UND, meanwhile, simply couldn't find the answers to breaking a losing streak to one of the perennial powers of the Big Sky...
Weber State couldn't ask for a better start. Nor could the Wildcats ask fora better finish to the first half -- and beyond.
UND, meanwhile, simply couldn't find the answers to breaking a losing streak to one of the perennial powers of the Big Sky Conference.
Weber capitalized on two decisive first-half runs to take a 72-60 win against UND on Saturday before 1,945 fans at The Betty --a loss that dropped North Dakota to 2-2 in the league and 5-9 overall.
UND, now in its second Big Sky season, dropped to 0-4 all time against Weber.
It was a disappointing loss in that UND had a chance to set itself up in good position for the upcoming road trip to Montana and Montana State -- long regarded as one of the most difficult swings in the lead.
"To me, this wasa statement game," said UND coach Brian Jones. "Can we perform with the best? We didn't step up to the plate in my opinion. We played hard; we just didn't finish."
Weber, the Big Sky preseason favorite, improved to 3-1 and 6-6. After losing at Northern Colorado on Thursday, the Wildcats came in focused -- evidenced by its 9-0 run to start the game and its 9-0 run at the end of the first half. That left Weber up 36-24 at the break, and UND could not cut the deficit under seven points the rest of the way.
"The difference of the game was that run we made at the end of the first half," said Weber coach Randy Rahe. "We just kept fighting and made some stops. That really gave us some momen- tum going into halftime.
"We probably should have been up a little more than we were to start the game because we had some opportunities. But North Dakota has a veteran team and pushed their way back into it. You always say that the start of the game, the end of the first half and the start of the second are the most important parts of the game."
And Weber played well during all three.
UND trailed 27-24 when the Wildcats hit their final three shots of the first half -- all 3-pointers. Byron Fulton, a muscular 6-foot-7 senior from Phoenix, hit two of the 3-pointers while Jeremy Senglin, another freshman, hit the other one.
"We kind of fell asleep and gave up some 3s we shouldn't have given up," said UND guard Josh Schuler. "That hurt because we know we can compete with that team. We wanted to show that we could compete against them but against teams like that you can't have droughts because they'll make you pay for it."
Weber placed four players in double figures, led by Jordan Richardson's 16 points. He was 4-for-5 on beyond the arc and twice he drained long 3-pointers as the shot clock was about to expire.
"When you work hard, good things happen," said Rahe.
Davion Berry's 3-point play gave Webera 50-35 lead with 12:11 to go. UND managed to cut the gap to seven, 56-49 on a Jaron Nash steal and layup with 5:12 remaining. But two free throws from Kyndahl Hill and another Berry basket wiped out UND's momentum.
Troy Huff led UND with 17 points while Nash finished with 14. Alonzo Traylor added 10.
Weber shot 49 percent overall and 53 percent beyond the stripe. UND struggled with its shooting, finishing at 40 percent. Even more frustrating was the fact that UND couldn't convert inside or on drives to the basket.
"We missed three straight layups to start the game," said Jones. "Maybe their length had something to do with that. But our guys have to focus; they have to make the right read whether to finish at the rim or make the right pass."
The win was especially important for Weber, which now returns home to Ogden, Utah, for four straight home games. The Wildcats are expected to challenge for another Big Sky title, even though they're playing handful of freshmen.
"We haven't been playing good basketball yet," said Rahe. "We're probably two or three weeks away from that. But we needed this for our young kids."
For UND, the focus now is the demanding Montana trip.
"It'll be a tough week for us but everyone has to go on that trip," said Jones. "We have to go out there with the mindset of winning some games because we gave one up at home."