College basketball: Weber, Southern Utah ready for Big Sky openers
Published: January 1, 2014 06:01PM
Updated: January 1, 2014 11:17PM

The Big Sky Conference season can’t arrive fast enough for Weber State or Southern Utah.

The Wildcats and Thunderbirds have struggled during the non-league portion of their schedules, but they get a chance to start over Thursday night.

Weber State, picked to win the Big Sky but only 3-5 so far, opens its conference season against Eastern Washington at the Dee Events Center.

Southern Utah, which has lost eight straight after opening with an victory over little Arizona Christian, begins its league season at North Dakota.

The Wildcats have played a difficult road-oriented schedule so far. The have lost at UCLA, Utah State, BYU, Colorado State and Utah Valley.

Weber State’s lone quality win came over San Jose State, 72-55. Its other two victims have been non-Division I opponents St. Katherine (107-36) and Northern New Mexico (75-49).

With the conference season approaching, coach Randy Rahe hopes his team takes a step forward.

After the win over Northern New Mexico, Rahe said, “We weren’t very good tonight, especially in the first half. We didn’t play tough enough or hard enough.

“… We’re still trying to find ourselves. Our progression has been slow, but that’s no excuse for toughness and effort and doing the things we need to do.”

Southern Utah has played the second-most difficult schedule in the Big Sky Conference.

The Thunderbirds open league play against North Dakota, which is 3-8 overall and 0-1 in the conference.

In his second season at SUU, coach Nick Robinson has five true freshmen on scholarship. All five have played in every game. Point guard Trey Kennedy is one of three freshmen starters. He averages a team-high 10.7 points per game.

Along with inexperience, a lack of scoring has been Southern Utah’s biggest obstacle this season.

The Thunderbirds average only 56 points per game on 35-percent shooting. They have been beaten on the boards by an average of 12 rebounds per game.

luhm@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sluhm

Weber State vs. Eastern Washington

O At the Dee Events Center (Ogden)

Tipoff • 7 p.m.

TV • None

Radio • 1430 AM, 103.1 FM

Records • Weber State, 3-5; E. Washington, 5-6

Series • Weber State leads 41-20

Last meeting • Weber State, 65-57 (March 9, 2013)

About the Wildcats • They are 8-1 in their last nine games against Eastern Washington. … All-time, they are 27-4 against the Eagles in Ogden. … G Davion Berry (16.9) and C Kyle Tresnak (12.1) are their leading scorers. … They are 10th in the Big Sky in three-point shooting (.314).

About the Eagles • They are 0-5 on the road. … They have lost four straight to St. Mary’s (93-65), UC Irvine (70-61), Seton Hall (92.70) and UConn (82-65). … They are led by Venky Jois, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Australia who averages 12.4 points and eight rebounds per game.