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Coming off of a tough preseason schedule and a 3-5 record, the Weber State University men’s basketball team opened up Big Sky Conference play with a 74-67 win over Eastern Washington University.
“We hung in there,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “We fought, we had to work. It wasn’t always pretty, but we found a way.”
The Wildcats got off to a rough start for the second-straight game, giving up 10 unanswered points. The Wildcats looked sloppy in the early goings of the quarter, giving up two turnovers and a foul on a 3-point attempt.
Rahe quickly called a timeout to rally his troops and settle them down.
“In the timeout I just had to say, ‘Just start competing. Whatever happens, compete. Be tough, get stops, bang around and get some rebounds,’” Rahe said. “I kind of had to shock them into it. Once we did it, we played better. We played hard, we played defense, we rebounded. Offensively, we made shots when we needed to.”
The streak was broken on free-throw shots from sophomore Joel Bolomboy. On the next possession, Bolomboy went sky-high for a huge slam dunk to bring the Wildcats within six points.
“We couldn’t quit; we just kept fighting,” said Bolomboy of the early struggles. “It’s early in the game. We didn’t start off the way we wanted to. We just had to keep fighting.”
The Wildcats went on a run midway through the first half, outscoring the Eagles 7-2 and pulling within three.
The teams went back and forth over the next few minutes before the Eagles again went on a run, pushing their lead to nine. But the Wildcats answered right back, cutting the lead to three and forcing a timeout.
The Wildcats were able to close the gap and tie the game up on a 3-point shot from Davion Berry, tying the game at 28.
After a monster dunk from freshman Jeremy Senglin, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game with just less than four minutes left on a floater from freshman Richaud Gittens.
“When I hit that shot going into the half, I just brought the momentum back,” Senglin said. “Any game when you end the half like that, it just brings momentum to the second half. That was really big.”
The Wildcats played lockdown defense to finish the half and took a 37-33 lead into halftime.
Senior Kyle Tresnak had nine points to lead the Wildcats. Senglin added eight points for WSU.
Sophomore Tyler Harvey led all scorers with 21 points in the first half off of 7-10 shooting. No other player had more than four points for the Eagles.
The Wildcats scored 11 points off turnovers and had nine second-chance points on five offensive rebounds.
The Wildcats continued to be hot from the field to start the second half. WSU pushed its lead to 10 on strong play from Senglin and Tresnak.
“We got our jitters out,” Senglin said. “I felt like, at the beginning, everyone was kind of nervous, because it was our first conference game, but in the second half, we didn’t have that in us anymore.”
The Wildcat lead hovered between eight and 12 points for the majority of the half, as both teams traded buckets seemingly every possession.
The Wildcats got into foul trouble late in the half, which allowed the Eagles to climb back into the game. The Eagles pulled the game within four points with six minutes remaining in the game.
But WSU again went on a run, scoring five unanswered, pushing the lead back to nine. As soon as the Wildcats built up their lead, the Eagles chipped away, cutting the lead to three in the final minute.
However, the foul game didn’t work for the Eagles, as the Wildcats were clutch with their free throws down the stretch. EWU was unable to hit a shot in the final minute, giving WSU the 74-67 victory.
Senglin finished the game with 16 points and three assists. Bolomboy had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, including hitting clutch free throws down the stretch. Harvey finished with 30 points for EWU.
“Now that we have back-to-back games every week, now we can start getting better,” Rahe said. “We aren’t playing the type of basketball that we need to play, and that’s OK. We just need to keep our head above water and grind out wins where we can.”
WSU played Saturday against Portland State University. That game will be covered in the Wednesday issue of The Signpost and on www.wsusignpost.com.