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College basketball: Weber State escapes with win over Southern Utah

Published January 19, 2014 12:03 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • Weber State's victory over Southern Utah on Saturday night wasn't a huge surprise.

But the degree of difficulty?

Shocking.

Davion Berry scored a season-high 25 points and the Wildcats rallied for a 65-59 win over the Thunderbirds at the Dee Events Center.

Weber State made 31 of 43 free-throw attempts — including 38 attempts in the second half — to avoid what would have been a monumental upset.

Instead, the Wildcats improved to 7-6 overall and 4-1 in the Big Sky Conference.

Southern Utah dropped to 1-14 and 0-6 despite its best effort of the season.

Consider:

The Thunderbirds had lost their previous 13 games by an average of 25.5 points. They ranked 11th in the Big Sky in scoring (50.2) and field-goal percentage (.358).

Still, Weber State needed to overcome a 43-36 deficit in the final 14 minutes to escape.

"What I saw from them was a loose, confident team with nothing to lose," said Wildcat coach Randy Rahe. "... A lot of credit goes to Southern Utah."

Said Berry: "This is a rivalry game for both teams. They came out and threw their best punch. But we were ready for it."

Actually, SUU outplayed the Wildcats in the first half, when the Thunderbirds grabbed a 32-29 lead.

Southern Utah rallied from an early 20-15 deficit by holding the Weber State without a point for six minutes.

SUU's Jaren Jeffrey's capped an 11-2 run with a jumper, which gave the Thunderbirds a 26-22 lead with 5:11 left in the half.

Weber appeared to recover when Jeremy Senglin and Byron Fulton knocked down back-to-back threes but, after a timeout, Jeffery countered with a four-point play to help Southern Utah regain momentum.

The Thunderbirds increased their lead to seven with 14 minutes remaining before Rahe made a decision that was critical to the outcome.

He switched the Wildcats to a zone defense, and Southern Utah managed only five field goals the rest of the way.

"I thought changing defenses picked up our spirits a little bit," Rahe said.

SUU coach Nick Robinson agreed.

"We had a little bit of foul trouble and didn't have our best combinations in there," he said. "That got us a little stagnant and we didn't execute extremely well. ... [But] a lot of credit to Weber State for making that adjustment."

Asked about the effectiveness of the Wildcats' zone, Berry smiled and said, "We haven't been running it a lot, but coach decided to throw it out there and we were successful."

In the final 30.5 seconds, with Weber State nursing a 57-54 lead, Berry went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line to seal the victory.

In all, he made 18 of 23 free throws.

"My focus was just to attack," Berry said. "... It was a grind-out game and the free throws helped." —

Weber State 65,Southern Utah 59

S. UTAH (1-14)

Hanks 2-5 0-0 4, Hess 6-9 0-0 16, Cheesman 2-5 0-0 4, Kennedy 7-13 3-4 17, Nsenki 0-1 0-0 0, Marshall 0-1 0-2 0, Parsons 0-0 0-0 0, Major 0-2 0-0 0, Rippetoe 0-1 0-0 0, Oliverson 1-6 0-0 2, Jeffery 5-9 4-6 16. Totals 23-52 7-12 59.

WEBER ST. (7-6)

Berry 3-8 18-23 25, Bolomboy 2-2 3-6 7, Tresnak 1-5 4-6 6, Richardson 2-3 0-0 6, Senglin 3-7 0-0 8, Gittens 1-5 5-6 7, Fulton 1-1 0-0 3, Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Hill 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 14-35 31-43 65.

Halftime—S. Utah 32-29. 3-Point Goals—S. Utah 6-12 (Hess 4-6, Jeffery 2-3, Rippetoe 0-1, Kennedy 0-2), Weber St. 6-14 (Richardson 2-3, Senglin 2-5, Fulton 1-1, Berry 1-4, Williams 0-1). Fouled Out—Hess, Jeffery. Rebounds—S. Utah 20 (Cheesman, Jeffery, Rippetoe 4), Weber St. 37 (Hill 8). Assists—S. Utah 13 (Hess, Kennedy 3), Weber St. 9 (Berry 4). Total Fouls—S. Utah 27, Weber St. 18. Technical—Cheesman. A—7,479.