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OGDEN — Weber State cruised to an 88-48 victory over Presentation College in its preseason finale at the Dee Events Center on Friday.
A final tune-up before entering conference play saw the Wildcats go 10-deep into their roster, force 11 steals and lead by as much as 42 in the second half of a game that entered garbage time early.
“I know the opponent wasn’t great, but we played well,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said of dispatching the visiting Saints (6-10) Friday. “We guarded well. We kept the ball out of the paint defensively, which was one of our big goals. …
“Offensively, we played faster. We were moving faster, we were cutting faster, the ball was moving quicker. We played really well.”
Weber State (7-5) outscored Presentation College 34-14 in the paint while scoring 24 points off turnovers Friday.
A big night on the stat sheet saw Jerrick Harding and Ryan Richardson lead all scorers with twin 16-point outputs, with the former adding five assists, three steals and two rebounds while the latter contributed four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. Zach Braxton posted his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Dusty Baker hit three of his four 3-point attempts to finish with a season-high 15 points and seven rebounds. Baker, who had made just one of his previous nine attempts from distance entering Friday, said he was happy to see the ball go through the hoop again.
“I haven’t been making my threes like I normally do,” Baker said of his recent shooting. “So I just got back on working on shooting with confidence. It was good to get in a rhythm again and find that stroke.”
With the team's 12-game preseason schedule officially wrapped up, WSU turns its attention toward Big Sky play, which begins next Saturday at 7 p.m. MST against incoming Idaho State.
Entering the current six-game homestand on a three-game losing streak, Weber State has reversed course to win three straight at the halfway point of its extended homecoming.
When asked how he felt about his team entering conference play, Baker said the group is “confident” and added they are “excited for the challenge” of competing in a strong league.
Rahe, for his part, echoed Baker’s sentiment following Friday’s victory but also offered a few caveats relative to the team’s inconsistent efforts during the 40 minutes of a game.
“We’ve got good players, we’ve got a good team, but we aren’t going to out-talent people,” Rahe said. “We’ve got to play harder for longer. … And to be honest with you, I think most teams this time of the year that’s what they’re searching for: to play better basketball for longer. I think a lot of programs are in that boat right now.”
The Wildcats led by two touchdowns, 16-4, after Braxton delivered a thunderous dunk through contact with 14:02 remaining in the first half. A short while later, Baker found Braxton for another dunk on the open end of a flex screen from the right short-corner that extended their lead to 26-10 with 7:28 left before halftime.
Weber State closed the first half on a three-minute, 56-second field-goal drought but held a 37-23 advantage at the intermission by holding the Saints to a 23 percent (6-26) shooting effort in the opening 20 minutes.
“We knew it was a easy fix,” Braxton said of the team’s sloppy first half. “We just had to go in and talk about it at halftime and come back out and do it the right way.
A 14-point first-half margin quickly swelled to 22 when Baker hit a pair of threes from opposite wings that were followed by five consecutive points from Harding and a Dallas (seven points, three rebounds) layup at the 15:11 mark in the second half.
With the game well in hand, Rahe emptied the full latitude of his bench over the final 15 minutes and outscored the Saints 34-16. Ricky Nelson played a season-high 25 minutes, wherein he produced five points, four rebounds and two steals, while little-used players Riley Court and Brenden Morris logged seven and five minutes, respectively.
“It’s always good for everybody to get minutes, but those guys can play against anybody,” Braxton said. “We believe that they can play against anybody just like we all can.”
Dillon Anderson is studying literary journalism as a student at the University of Utah. You can follow him on Twitter @DillonDanderson.