Thursday , January 11, 2018 - 6:02 PM
Weber State's Jerrick Harding (center) drives the lane past the defense of Northern Colorado's Tanner Morgan (20) in a game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Harding scored 21 points and Weber State won 78-74.
Harding picked up two fouls in the opening minutes, both offensive, leading to an apprehensive, less aggressive offense in the first half. The Wildcats trailed by 10 at the break and by as many as 12 in the second half before rallying to claim the win.
“We told them at halftime, ‘let’s go and blow it out. Let’s go play,’” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “’Let’s go find a way,’ and they really did that. I’m really proud of them. That’s a good basketball team we played tonight.”
After Weber State cut its deficit to two points early in the second half, Northern Colorado extended it back to nine with a bucket from Andre Spight, making it 54-45.
But the Wildcats needed less than three minutes to pour on a 14-0 run to take a 59-54 lead with less than eight minutes to play.
That decisive run included contributions up and down the lineup. Michal Kozak and Zach Braxton combined for four free throws, Harding converted a three-point play, Dusty Baker made a driving layup, Brekkott Chapman nailed a face-up jumper, and Ryan Richardson capped the run with a 3-pointer from the corner.
The battle on the glass played a heavy role in the outcome of the game. Weber State (10-6, 3-1 Big Sky) won the battle 39-31, including a 25-12 margin in the second half.
Kozak led the team in rebounds with 10, half of which came on the offensive glass.
Harding was strong from midrange in the second half and led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 15 in the frame and finishing with an 8-of-12 shooting performance.
“When you get those two fouls early, it’s hard to go out there and be aggressive,” Rahe said. “We ran some stuff to get him going early (in the second half), and then he just took off.”
The only Wildcat to score from beyond the arc was Richardson, who shot 3 of 9 from deep to total 14 points. The rest of the team shot 0 of 6.
Braxton kept Weber State within striking distance in the first half, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the first 20 minutes of play. In his home state, the big man also brought down eight rebounds.
Freshman guard Ricky Nelson played a impactful role off the bench with 12 points, 10 of which came from the free-throw line, to help secure the win.
“I thought his play off the bench was as big as anything. He gave us a great spark on both ends,” Rahe said of Nelson. “He got to the rim, made his free throws. That was a big spark for him off the bench tonight.”
The Bears (11-7, 2-3) outshot the Wildcats 60 percent to 38 percent in the first half, leading to a 39-29 halftime score.
Weber State now heads to Grand Forks to face the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.