Weber State basketball: Wildcats use team effort to beat Northern Arizona
Ogden • One of the dynamic aspects about Weber State's basketball team is its versatility.
While it is true that much of the attention is aimed at Damian Lillard, the nation's leading scorer (25.1), Thursday's physical 81-67 Big Sky Conference victory against visiting Northern Arizona provided a glimpse of the Wildcat team.
For example, the Lumberjacks (5-14, 1-6 BSC) came out in a triangle-and-two defense, aimed at keeping Lillard and Scott Bamforth, who averages nearly 16 a game, under wraps.
Fine. The Wildcats (15-3, 7-0) simply attacked inside. WSU's 6-foot-10, 250-pound sophomore center Kyle Tresnak abused the 'Jacks' post players, scoring 16 first half points and an overall career high of 22.
"It kept working so we kept doing it," Tresnak said.
Weber State, which led by nine at the half, opened the second 20 minutes with an 11-3 run and kept the margin intact the rest of the way.
"It isn't magic," said Lillard, who scored 18 points to go with six assists, six rebounds and three steals.
"We work on it in practice all the time," Lillard continued. We have small guys [match up], then we have the big guys match up. We'll have older guys against young guys. Coach [Randy] Rahe puts us in all kinds of situations so we can prepare for it and can execute in any situation."
Jordan Richardson was another reason NAU's junk defense was not effective. The Wildcat sophomore guard started knocking down shots early, and he finished with 10.
Then junior forward Frank Otis, in his second game back from a knee injury, came off the bench to contribute 12 points as the Wildcats won their ninth in a row and 13th straight in the Dee Events Center.
"You like to be perfect," Rahe said. "But each game presents different issues. I like where we're at. The thing I like, we can get better. There are areas we need to shore up and we can do that. We can improve as a team.
"We haven't peaked yet."
Only Northern Arizona's resolve kept the game close. The Lumberjacks stayed close in the first half by converting 63 percent. So did WSU.
In the second half, however, the Wildcats stepped up their defense and limited NAU to 42 percent.
"They're big," said NAU guard and Salt Lake City native Stallon Saldivar, who played high school at Judge. "It's hard when our center is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds."
Saldivar, who finished with seven assists and six points, admitted to feeling a few jitters, "But it is always fun to play in front of friends and family."
In the end, Weber State just had too much unselfishness for the Lumberjacks.
"I trust my teammates," Lillard said. "If I'm going to get so much attention I need to be able to trust my teammates to knock down shots and finish plays. The best thing I could do was help rebound the ball and find open guys.
"If we lose, we lose preparing the same way as now."
R WSU center Kyle Tresnak scores a career-high 22 points, 16 in the first half.
• The Wildcats convert 16 NAU turnovers into 18 points.
• Weber State limits the BSC's best offensive rebounding team to just three in that category.
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