Ogden • When the Weber State Wildcats need somebody to take charge — during a practice, a timeout, or on the court — they often look to big man Zach Braxton.
“[He] might be as good a leader as I’ve been around while I’ve been here,” Weber coach Randy Rahe said. “It’s who he is. It’s in his DNA. That guy was born to lead and kids follow him.”
On Friday night, Braxton led his Wildcats to a 65-59 win over Utah State, as the two teams opened the college basketball season at the Dee Events Center. Braxton finished the night with 18 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist.
“I thought Zach was a man tonight,” Rahe said.
Braxton was able to do some damage inside against an undersized Aggie team, while also surprising them with the range he has added to his jump shot since last season. And the junior center provided the exclamation point on the night, blocking Utah State guard DeAngelo Isby with about 20 seconds left on the clock and then capping off the fast break with an emphatic dunk that brought most of the crowd of 8,592 fans to their feet.
“We could feel the energy the whole game,” Braxton said. “In that moment, it kind of all bottlenecked and we popped the cap off.”
The energy couldn’t have been more different for Utah State.
“That’s not us offensively. That can’t be us,” USU coach Tim Duryea said. “… We were a really, really nervous basketball team offensively and it showed. That was a horrible offensive performance.”
The Aggies shot 37 percent from the floor and finished with five assists. More troubling for Duryea, who wants his team to attempt upward of 25 3-pointers a game, the Aggies went 4 for 15 from behind the arc.
“Our whole thing with these guys, our scouting report, was no 3s,” Rate said. “That’s what they want to do. It’s the strength of their team. And I though our kids did a great job.”
The Aggies were led by 12 points from center Alex Dargenton and 11 points Isby. Utah State’s Koby McEwen, the Mountain West Conference’s freshman of the year last season, struggled with foul trouble throughout the game and never seemed to find his rhythm, finishing with nine points.
“We expect a lot from Koby,” Dargenton said. “… This year, the officiating is going to be a little tighter we think, and we saw that tonight.”
Weber State senior guard Ryan Richardson scored 18 points and former Utah Ute Brekkott Chapman had 10 points and three rebounds in his Wildcat debut. The Wildcats never trailed in their second straight victory USU.
“You always want to win your in-state games,” Rahe said. “These are fun games to win obviously. … It’s just nice to be able to do it. We know it’s one game. I told the kids to enjoy the heck out of this and we’re going to go back to work on Sunday and get better.”