COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Weber State Hangs On Against Northern Colorado in Big Sky Opener

Dec 29, 2022, 8:57 PM
Dillon Jones - Weber State Wildcats...
(Courtesy of Weber State Athletics)
(Courtesy of Weber State Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY – Northern Colorado made a second half run but it was too little, too late as the Wildcats held on for their sixth win of the season.

Weber State (6-8, 1-0) outlasted the Northern Colorado Bears (5-8, 0-1) in the Big Sky conference opener for each program on Thursday, December 29.

RELATED: Second Half Comeback Helps Weber State Stun USU In Logan

The Wildcats have seen both ends of the in-state spectrum in recent games. A comeback helped the Wildcats knock off undefeated Utah State on the road. Three days later, WSU fell short against BYU, 63-57.

Northern Colorado has lost two straight. The Bears fell 88-77 at Colorado before suffering a two-point loss against Air Force two days later.

Dillon Jones exploded for a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds. He finished 14-of-15 from the free throw line in the tight win. Steven Verplancken added 15 and Alex Tew scored 10 off the bench.

Dalton Knecht led the Bears with 22 points. Daylen Kountz added 18.

First Half

This game began with a series of runs.

The Wildcats came out humming, scoring six straight points to take an early lead.

Dalton Knecht then took over for Northern Colorado, scoring eight points to help UNC take a 10-6 lead before the under-16 minute timeout.

RELATED: BYU Basketball Questions Answered In Win Against Weber State

Back-to-back Wildcat threes from Junior Ballard and Dillon Jones put Weber State back in front 12-10. The run improved to 12-2 with UNC going cold from the field.

Weber State maintained a small lead, generating just enough stops to stay in front of the Bears.

Alex Tew played a big roll on both ends off the bench. Tew was able to challenge shots, came away with two boards and a steal in his first ten minutes of play. Offensively, Tew went 3-of-3 from the field for six points.

Ballard helped the Wildcats increase their lead to 30-23 with a driving layup. Ballard’s seventh point gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the night. They would take a 32-26 lead with 3:44 left.

Later in the half, Steven Verplancken hit a three to put Weber State in front by nine.

In the final minute of the half, a Wildcat out of timeout play didn’t develop. Jones ended up missing a short floater, but an offensive rebound from Tew gave them a chance at the last shot. Jones would take advantage, squeezing free to hit a last second layup, giving Weber State a 37-28 halftime lead.

Jones and Verplancken led the Wildcats with nine points each.

After his early scoring outburst, Knecht leads all scorers with 10 points.

Second Half

The Wildcat lead grew to 12 with a Dyson Koehler layup. WSU opened the second half by making four of their first five shots.

Weber State forced three turnovers in the opening minutes of the half as their lead grew. Northern Colorado was forced to call a timeout trailing 55-38 with 12:46 left.

RELATED: Hot Shooting Helps Weber State Blow Out Cal Poly For Road Win

An 8-0 Bears run cut the lead to 14 with 10:07 left. The Wildcats called a quick timeout but couldn’t stem the tide of the Bear run.

A previously strong Wildcat defense opened up driving lanes for Northern Colorado as the Bears hit three straight shots at the rim. UNC added a three from Caleb Shaw as they turned a 22 point deficit in to just five, 60-55 with 7:33 left.

During a timeout, officials reviewed aa previous call and ended up assessing a flagrant foul against Northern Colorado. Jones hit two free throws and Weber State took possession in an apparent shift in momentum.

Weber State would score six straight points to put their lead back to 11 at 66-55 with less than six minutes on the clock.

UNC immediately cut the lead to six with a layup and three free throws. They would keep it within eight but couldn’t get over the hump as Dillon Jones knocked down a three and the Wildcats played the free throw game in the final minute.

Weber State would go on to win 81-72.

Up Next

Weber State remains at home where they will welcome in the Northern Arizona  Lumberjacks (4-9) on Saturday, December 31. Tip-off for this New Year’s Eve game is set for

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Weber State Hangs On Against Northern Colorado in Big Sky Opener