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In its first conference basketball game, Weber State University knocked off in-state rival Southern Utah University 81-74 on Thursday night in Cedar City.
Head coach Randy Rahe said the game was a physical one, but WSU was able to find some open space thanks to good passing.
“That was an extremely physical game, and it affected us in the first half, but we made some good adjustments in the second half,” Rahe said. “We moved the ball a lot better and were able to get good baskets in transition. It’s always a difficult game down here, and Southern Utah played really well. I was really pleased with our effort.”
WSU opened up the scoring early in the game thanks to an inside layup by Frank Otis. Both teams struggled offensively at the start of the game, with each team missing a few opportunities and struggling early with fouls. The Thunderbirds started out 0-5 from the field.
While SUU’s offense struggled early on, its defense was strong, holding WSU to four points in the first five minutes of the game. The Thunderbirds’ defense was able to contain the Wildcat offense and allowed SUU to keep the game close. With 11:30 left in the first half, WSU held a three-point lead.
SUU’s Jackson Stevenett tied the game up at 13 before Gelaun Wheelwright retook the lead for WSU with a 3-pointer. After that, the score was tight for the remainder of the first half.
Stevenett was the Thunderbirds’ most dangerous player during the first half. He tied the game up three times throughout the first half. With six minutes left in the half, he had 14 of SUU’s 19 points.
At the half, WSU held a narrow lead of 30-29.
Six minutes into the second half, the Thunderbirds took the lead thanks to a three by Wade Collie, then, on WSU’s next possession, Davion Berry answered with a three of his own to retake the lead. Two minutes later, the Wildcats extended their lead to six points.
Wheelwright scored back-to-back buckets for the Wildcats to extend the lead. First, he hit a buzzer-beater, then went coast-to-coast and converted a layup to extend WSU’s lead to eight points.
With four minutes remaining, Scott Bamforth and Joel Bolomboy combined efforts to give the WSU fans who made the trek to Cedar City something to cheer about. Bamforth lobbed a pass to Bolomboy, who converted the alley-oop.
While most of the game was close, WSU started to pull away toward the end of the game and built a 10-point lead. The last 1:30 of the game slowed down considerably, with the teams going back and forth, trading foul shots.
Stevenett had a strong game for SUU in the loss. He finished the game with 29 points, tying his career high.
Bamforth said the team was able to dig deep and come away with a tough win.
“It was a tough, grind-it-out game, but we were able to do what we needed to win,” he said. “We started to get some stops in the second half and made the shots we needed to. It was a great team win.”
Berry led the Wildcats with 19 points, and also had seven rebounds. He also shot 10-16 from the free-throw line. Bamforth finished with 17 points, including 13-14 from the line. Bamforth now has 999 career points, one away from becoming the 27th player in WSU history with 1,000 career points.
The Wildcats finished the game off for an 81-74 win. WSU will be back in action on Monday night when it travels to Idaho State University.