OGDEN — Heading into Saturday, a win was exactly what Weber State was dreaming of.
Suffice it to say, the dream came true.
After enjoying seven days off, the Weber State Wildcats woke up out of their losing slump on Saturday. The well-rested home team handed the visiting Arkansas Pine-Bluff Golden Lions (0-12) a 96-74 loss at the Dee Events Center to snap a three-game losing streak that improves the team to .500.
“I liked how we played tonight, especially offensively,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said following the game. “We needed to get a win, it was time. …
“It’s good to get some confidence going and hopefully get a little swagger back.”
Weber State (5-5) registered 22 assists on 31 field goals as part of an offensive outburst Saturday night. Seven Wildcats finished with at least two assists, including senior combo-guard Dusty Baker, who led with seven.
“That’s something we take a lot of pride in,” senior Ryan Richardson said of his team’s passing. “Dusty is one of the best at it. He’ll find a way to get the ball to the open guy no matter how he has to do it: behind the back, through other people’s legs — he throws it through people’s legs in practice all the time.
“Moving the ball is something that when we do it, we can play with almost anyone in the country.”
After missing last week’s game against BYU, center Zach Braxton was back in action Saturday night. In his return, the junior finished with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with a team-high seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
Elsewhere, a sensational 29-point performance from Jerrick Harding during the Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena last Saturday was followed up in spectacular fashion on Saturday, as the sophomore finished with 30 points on just 13 shots, and added two rebounds and as many assists in 22 minutes of action. Harding did not play the final 12:27 of the game.
“I didn’t know how many points I had, honestly,” said Harding, whose 30-point output put him one point shy of his career-high. “I was just trying to get the W.”
The Wildcats earned a 9-7 advantage, a lead they would never relinquish, after freshman Michal Kozak (seven points, five rebounds and two assists) finished through contact and completed the ensuing and-one with 17:02 remaining in the first half.
Later, a series of converted 3-pointers from Richardson (16 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Trevon Ary-Turner (four points and four assists) during the final 9:47 of the first half helped the Wildcats to a 44-33 lead heading into halftime. Richardson, a 6-foot-4 guard from Chandler, Arizona, scored eight of Weber State’s final 16 points en route to a 10-point first half for the senior swingman.
Consecutive threes from Richardson and point guard Jerrick Harding put the Wildcats up 19, 56-37, with 17 minutes left in the game. After another three from Harding extended Weber State’s lead to 63-41 with 14:21 remaining, the Wildcats went on to lead the Golden Lions by at least 22 points the rest of the way and by as many as 32.
After winning the first part of a six-game homestand, the Wildcats hope they can gain confidence with the extended home stretch that continues with games on Tuesday against Pepperdine, and Friday against Presentation College.
“What you hope for is that you can get some good confidence,” Rahe said. “What you hope when you get two, three, four in a row at home is you get some momentum. And then all of a sudden that confidence builds up, and all of a sudden you start to feel a little bulletproof. And then when you do go back on the road, you feel like ‘Hey, we got this.’
“So hopefully we can get going a little bit, build some steam as we go. We’re going to need to play well Tuesday.”