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OGDEN — Weber State basketball is a predictable machine.
The Wildcats start slow year-after-year as they learn the intricacies of coach Randy Rahe’s offensive system. They schedule tough and play in some of the nation’s toughest venues without fail. They play as many in-state games as possible, but often fall just short in those games — especially to rivals Utah State and BYU.
However, by mid-December, Weber fans can expect their basketball team to begin getting comfortable with each other, and that is exactly what happened Saturday.
Weber hosted in-state rival Utah Valley, and walked away with a 73-61 victory over the Wolverines.
The Wildcats hit a season-high 12 3-pointers, and sophomore forward Richaud Gittens had a career-high 21 points in the game. Weber also had four players finish in double-figures, and guard Jeremy Senglin scored in double figures for the eighth time in nine games.
The statistics provide evidence the Wildcats are moving in the right direction, but Rahe said the group’s response to Utah Valley’s toughness is a strong indicator that Weber is coming along.
Weber State now has a 5-3 all-time advantage over Utah Valley.
“That’s a pretty good win against a really tough, well-coached team,” he said, referring to the victory over Utah Valley. “We knew going in that they’re going to be a really physical team, really tough-minded team; they always are year in and year out. What they try to do is make it a grind, and they really grind on you.”
The statistics did make a point to Rahe, though, and he said it’s a sign the system is starting to sink in with his team.
“I felt like we’re starting to get a little more rhythm offensively,” said Rahe, whose Wildcats shot 40 percent from the field. “Guys are starting to relax a little bit more offensively, and defensively we did a pretty nice job overall. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Weber opened the game on a 12-0 run, fueled by success behind the 3-point line.
Rahe said hitting shots early fuels confidence for the rest of the game, and helped Weber get into a much-needed rhythm from distance.
“It was big, because against that team you’re going to have to make shots,” he said. “They don’t give you much inside, they play their defense inside the 3-point line. If you do get a low-post touch, they come and double.”
Getting the Wildcats going in the right direction has come from a few slight changes to the lineup, mainly moving center James Hajek to the starting lineup. Hajek finished with two points and six rebounds against the Wolverines.
Rahe said the move was made to reward Hajek and take pressure off of other players.
“James has been working his tail off,” he said. “James is one of our best leaders, so James earned the right to start. He gives us so much defensively and rebounding, so we just decided to go that way. I don’t know how long we’ll stay that way; maybe it’s all year, I don’t know. We just go day-by-day.”
Weber will face No. 15 Oklahoma on Monday. The Wildcats will be facing a Sooners team that is coming off a 69-67 loss to Washington in Las Vegas Saturday. Longtime professional and college coach Lon Kruger, who coached at UNLV prior to being at Oklahoma, coaches the Sooners.