“I thought in the first half they executed a little bit better than we did, and obviously made open shots all night, but it is hard to beat any team that is shooting 60 percent from 3-point line,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “I felt like our energy coming out of the second half was fantastic. We made a great run against a very good team, but we weren’t able to sustain that because we turned the ball over and missed free throws and missed crucial free throws.”
The two teams traded quick baskets to start the game as Weber State’s Kyle Tresnak got into the key for a hook shot and Cal Hanks dropped in a short jumper on the other end for the Thunderbirds. The Wildcats began to heat up from the outside, hitting four of their first six from beyond the arc, to take an early advantage of 22-10. Kyndal Hill knocked down two straight from deep as the visitors reeled of a 15-5 run that came to an end with Jaren Jeffrey hitting his second 3-pointer of the night for SUU.
A score by Casey Oliverson and a pair of free throws from Hanks helped the Thunderbirds pull back within 27-17 with just under seven minutes remaining in the period, but Weber State got seven straight points from Joel Bolomboy late in the half to take a 38-22 lead into the break.
A.J. Hess scored the first five points of the second half to cut the deficit to 38-27. John Marshall then intercepted a pass and went coast-to-coast for an open lay-in. Hess knocked down another three and Juwan Major threw down a big one-handed slam in transition to make the difference 40-34 after a 12-2 Southern Utah run.
“We made some adjustments at half time and were able to get some stops defensively which allowed us to get in transition, and guys were making a bunch of plays,” commented Robinson. “I think fatigue set in a little bit and our mental toughness defensively went down as we went back to man-to-man defense as they brought in shooters against our zone.”
Weber State pushed its advantage back to 48-36 with a pair of inside scores from Tresnak and a three from Jeremy Senglin, but a basket and a foul for Hanks and a jumper by Hess had the T-Birds back within eight with 11:17 left on the clock.
WSU pulled away with a 13-1 run from there as a layup by Tresnak made the count 63-43 with seven minutes remaining. Two quick scores from Oliverson and Hanks narrowed the margin back down to 16, but back-to-back threes for Gittens and Senglin had the visitors up 69-47 with under five minutes to play.
The Wildcats protected their lead from there to come away with the 75-55 win.
Southern Utah shot nearly 46 percent from the field in the second half to up its shooting mark for the game to 38.3 percent. The Thunderbirds committed just 10 turnovers on the night but gave up a 31-20 rebounding edge. The 10 3-point field goals for the Wildcats were the most SUU has allowed to any opponent this season.
Weber State got 12 points from Tresnak and Bolomboy finished with nine points to go along with nine rebounds. Jefferey led Southern Utah with 11 points and six boards while Hess scored another 10 for the Thunderbirds. Both players hit a pair of 3-pointers in the contest.
Southern Utah is back at home this Saturday night when the Idaho State Bengals come to town. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. with game coverage available online at www.suutbirds.com.