Photo courtesy of Sacramento State Athletics
BOISE, Idaho – The second men’s quarterfinal of the day between the No. 3 seeded Weber State Wildcats and the No. 6 seeded Sacramento State Hornets was a game that was not close up until the very end. The Wildcats walked out with the “W”, winning 70-64.
“Overall really good by our team, really proud of them. I thought we competed on the glass… just a good performance from start to finish,” Weber State head coach Eric Duft said.
Weber State came out of the gates swinging and went on an 11-2 run to set the tone of the game. Junior forward Dillon Jones contributed four of these points, including a smooth mid range jump shot over a good contest from Sacramento State.
The Hornets tried to sting back though, and went on a run of their own anchored by two three pointers from junior guard Gianni Hunt and two hook shots by senior forward Callum McRae.
Even with the retort, Jones kept hitting more smooth mid range shots in tight coverage. Junior guard K.J. Cunningham wanted to get in on the mid range party and even made some tough layups for good measure.
“I was just making shots, playing my role, doing whatever I can to help the team win and the ball was just rolling for me.” Cunningham said of his 16 point performance.
Sophomore forward Dyson Koehler brought cookies to the party too, and scooped the ball from Sacramento State’s senior forward Hunter Marks before Jones nailed yet another mid range jumper.
It was a scoring bonanza for the Wildcats as nearly everyone who touched the ball scored. Junior guard Steven Verplancken, who entered the mix with an open three pointer, drilled a mid range shot with contact and converted the and-one.
The hands of Weber State were just too fast for the Hornets, and got multiple steals down the stretch to keep their 41-25 halftime lead.
Sacramento State stung first coming out of the break, courtesy of a turnaround jumper by junior forward Akol Mawein.
Verplancken came out of the half just as hot as he ended it; and scored the Wildcats’ first six points. In the first half, he dropped 7 points on 3-3 shooting. He finished the game with 16 points on 7-9 shooting.
Sacramento State’s senior guard Zach Chappell would not be denied, and began a long-winded comeback attempt after making consecutive buckets for the Hornets.
Verplancken was still on the attack, and hit a 360-degree fade away jump shot in transition.
After this score, Weber State did not score a field goal for five minutes, until Jones made a layup on the fast break.
Sacramento State took this opportunity to mount a run and got within nine points before Jones ended the Wildcats drought.
Weber State would put their mark back on the game with a big slam from sophomore center Alex Tew who also converted the following and-one chance.
McRae would not let the Wildcats get too far away, and was a monster in the paint through the whole game.
First Team All-Conference Jones signaled the beginning of the end of the game with a three pointer off a Tew screen to tilt momentum in the Wildcats favor.
However there was one problem, the Hornets still were not out of the fight. Sophomore guard Austin Patterson almost intercepted an inbound pass to give his team an extra possession, but he was just shy of tipping the ball.
As the game came down to the end, Chappell made a crucial three to get the game within only six points. With a few free throw antics, Weber State clinched the 70-64 quarterfinal win.