Saturday , February 10, 2018 - 11:03 PM
OGDEN — It was a sluggish start, but a nail-biting finish.
Sophomore guard Jerrick Harding and junior center Zach Braxton took care of business in overtime Saturday night to lift Weber State over Northern Colorado in a tough 71-66 win at the Dee Events Center.
“I really think that game was won tonight by our defense,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “After we gave up 19 offensive rebounds, we were pretty fortunate to find a way.”
Those two players combined for eight points in the extra period to pace the Wildcats (17-7, 10-2 Big Sky), and senior guard Dusty Baker iced the game with two free throws with five seconds left to ice the game, his only two points of the night.
Braxton led all scorers with a career-high 25 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Harding added 23 points, five rebounds and three steals.
“I feel like this is biggest test we’ve had all year,” Harding said. “With this win, I feel like we’re grown a lot as a team; being resilient through all of the adversity that we went through tonight.”
After a one-handed Harding push shot cut Weber’s deficit to 58-57 with 31 seconds left in regulation, Northern Colorado (16-10, 7-6) threw a long inbound pass to Jalen Sanders who was running free to the hoop. Baker tracked him down and committed a hard foul that prevented a shot, the momentum of which threw Sanders to the ground and drew blood in his mouth.
After video review, the foul was determined to be a common foul and Sanders made both free throws to extend the Bears’ lead to 60-57.
Harding found Braxton down low for a layup to cut the lead to one once more, but with less than 10 seconds to play, the outcome looked bleak and the Wildcats quickly fouled Jordan Davis.
Davis made his first but missed his second free throw with eight seconds left. Then while Harding was pushing the ball up the floor, he was fouled by Davis and tied the game at 61 with a pair of free throws.
Andre Spight had the last shot for the win but left it short, sending the game into overtime.
Brekkott Chapman finished with five blocks and Braxton added three.
Not much went right for the Wildcats in the first half. On top of poor shooting (33.3 percent and 1 of 8 from deep), offensive rebounds gave the Bears extra opportunities to score.
UNCo led by as many as 14 points after a 13-2 run over the span of seven minutes. A field goal from Chapman was the only Weber bucket over a nine minute span and the Bears led 29-19 at the break.
“I thought in the first half, their pressure really bothered us,” Rahe said. “It took us out of wack a little bit. I thought we guarded well but we just didn’t score very well in the first half. At halftime ... I thought we finally got them loosened up and then we got our confidence going offensively.”
Weber State quickly got back in the game with a 13-2 run to start the second half that cut the score to 33-32.
With 11:08 left in regulation, Harding gave WSU its first lead of the game with a great invidual play.
The sophomore swiped the ball from Anthony Johnson and ran free for a rim-rocking, two-handed slam to make the score 40-38.
On the next possession, Ryan Richardson sent the Dee Events Centery into a frenzy by draining a 3 to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game at 43-38 and cap a 9-0 run.
“When we’re getting stops, our defense leads to our offense,” Braxton said. “You could tell in the second half when we were getting stops, we started to get easy offense.”
The margin was never larger than five points for the final 23 minutes of the game.
Weber State next travels to face Portland State (15-10, 5-7) and Sacramento State (6-19, 3-9).
Around the Big Sky
MONTANA 71, SAC STATE 69 (OT): Montana fought back from a second-half deficit to move to 13-0 in conference play. Michael Oguine scored 25 points and had a crucial putback dunk in overtime. Sacramento State (3-9) led the final 15 minutes of regulation.
PORTLAND STATE 80, MONTANA STATE 77: Bryce Canda hit a 3 with 20 seconds left to give PSU a win in Bozeman.
IDAHO STATE 82, NORTH DAKOTA 67: Brandon Boyd scored 27 points and the Bengals (6-6) blasted North Dakota (3-10).
SOUTHERN UTAH 63, NORTHERN ARIZONA 54: NAU (1-11) shot 28 percent from the field and lost at home to SUU (4-8).
IDAHO 66, E. WASHINGTON 64: Sir Washington missed a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left and Vic Sanders blocked Bogdan Bliznyuk at the buzzer Friday to keep Idaho (9-3) a game behind Weber State in the standings. EWU dropped to 7-5.
N. COLORADO 71, WEBER STATE 69 (OT): Weber State (8-4) went scoreless for five minutes in the fourth quarter, then Savannah Smith hit a 3 to beat the buzzer and give Northern Colorado (10-3) the win.
Weber State also led by as much as five in overtime. Larryn Brooks scored 21 points and Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman scored 17.
UNCo took possession of first place with the win. Weber slid from first to third after losing both games of the road trip.
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at email@example.com, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.
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