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Coming off of its first Big Sky road trip of the season, the Weber State University men’s basketball team will return home for two bouts over the weekend. The Wildcats will host Southern Utah University on Saturday and Idaho State University on Monday.
The Wildcats split their two games on their road trip. They lost to the University of Northern Colorado 70-51, but bounced back to take down the University of North Dakota 72-60. The young players on the team struggled against UNC, but they took the lessons they learned and improved against UND.
“It was our first conference road game for some of those young kids,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “They had a little bit of a tough time. They were a lot better against North Dakota. I thought they got a lot more comfortable and didn’t play with the wide eyes as much. They got into a rhythm and did a much better job in the second one.”
The two freshman starters, Richaud Gittens and Jeremy Senglin, shot a combined 1-9 in the game against UNC. Senglin bounced back to score 15 points against UND. Senglin said he learned a lot from the first conference road trip of the season.
“I learned that you can’t relax in any game, especially on road trip games,” he said. “You have to lock in on those games more. You have to take every game serious and play as a team every game. You can’t take any games off.”
Gittens had a similar experience in what he learned.
“It was a good experience for me and the whole team,” he said, “just to get that feel of how it’s going to be, how road games are actually going to be and how hard we are going to have to play. We have to dictate how other teams play. We have to make them play Weber State basketball.”
Despite the struggles from the whole team, no one blamed someone else. Everyone continued to work.
“We stayed together as a team,” Gittens said. “Most teams, when you get down like that, it seems like teams will fold. The team will say, ‘All right, guys, we don’t have it.’ But that’s not what we did.”
The team showed improvement in every facet of its game against UND. Rahe said he was pleased with the quick turnaround of his players.
“I thought that in North Dakota we really, for the first time, played how we need to play,” Rahe said. “We needed to improve some things after Northern Colorado. We don’t give up threes, we don’t give up penetration, we don’t give up layups. We’ve got to really continue to develop that. (In) North Dakota we did that, and we have got to keep that going.”
Now with the experience of two conference road games under their belts, the Wildcats are focused on the upcoming games against their rivals.
“We’ve got Southern Utah on Saturday; it’s obviously an in-state rivalry game,” Rahe said. “They have some new guys down there and they’ve been struggling a little bit. But when you play an in-state team, all of that goes out the door. You know it is going to be hard-fought and we are going to have to play well.”
Then the Wildcats will host ISU, which Rahe said is playing some of the best basketball in the conference this year.
“Idaho State may be playing the second-best basketball of anybody in our conference right now,” he said. “They’ve got a bunch of veterans and they are really playing like it. It’s a tall task. We are excited to be home to play a couple games. We are excited about the challenges that both those teams bring.”
Tipoff for both games will be at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.