Ogden • After delivering a challenge to his 6-foot-9 sophomore center, Weber State coach Randy Rahe was sure that it would elicit a major response.
And it did Saturday night as Zach Braxton jumped to the fore of a Wildcats' offense known for sinking long-range shots. Braxton scored eight of his team's first 11 points, helped open up the outside game, and led Weber State to an 86-80 victory over visiting Northern Arizona.
"We knew they were probably going to be concerned with our 3-point shooters, so we made an effort to get the ball inside," Rahe said. "He was aggressive, he got to his spot and he got his shot — and guys kept feeding him.
"Zach was all over the place early. One thing about Zach is, if you challenge him, he accepts and he's going to go out there and do it for you," Rahe added.
Braxton finished with 22 points and hauled in a dozen rebounds, the same number of rebounds as teammate Kyndahl Hill.
Senior Jeremy Senglin finished with a game-high 28 points as well as dishing out eight assists.
Senglin came into the contest nine shy of the all-time conference record for 3-pointers and knocked down six of his eight attempts from long range.
"I see [the record] around, so of course it's in my head," said Senglin, who now has 306 threes in his career. "But during the game, I don't think about it at all.
"I'll take nine, but I'm good with six — six is good," he added.
Weber State (14-7, 9-1) held on to sole possession of first place in the Big Sky Conference and the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 contests. Northern Arizona (6-18, 3-8), however, did make the game interesting in the late stages after falling behind by 21 points with eight minutes remaining.
The Lumberjacks hacked into the lead by applying a full-court press and made the score 80-70 with a three-point play by Mike Green with 3:44 remaining.
That's when Braxton blocked an NAU shot, which triggered a fast-break — one that finished with Hill slamming home a putback dunk with 3:15 on the clock.
That sequence, along with a pair of free throws by Cody John with 1:47 remaining, effectively ended the comeback hopes of the Lumberjacks.
Northern Arizona was paced by post Ako Kaluna's 25 points while Jordyn Martin chipped in 17, all from the paint area.
"Most teams we play have four guards; this team was totally different. Their big guys are hunker-down, low-post big guys," Rahe said.