'Cats stop the bleeding with win over Delaware State

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OGDEN — These are the Wildcats Randy Rahe expected.

Balanced yet dynamic, with Jerrick Harding scoring at all three levels; Zach Braxton playing bully-ball; Brekkott Chapman making a two-way impact and contributions from a bench filled with secondary playmakers.

At least for a game, this was it — all the pieces coming together.

So, it begs the question: where were they hiding? What changed between their last three games — all losses — and Saturday’s 83-69 win over Delaware State?

For Rahe, the answer was simple: tough love.

“We lost our way a little bit, we just did. So we had some tough workouts going on,” he said afterward. “We needed to snap them back into reality. And our guys really responded well.”

As much as that may be the case, the win merits a disclaimer, as Delaware State (3-9) entered Saturday as the worst team in the country, according to KenPom and Sports-Reference’s Simple Rating System. But still, in trying to exorcise the demons of a three-game losing streak — not to mention an offensive slump— the Wildcats (6-5) were happy to accept whatever situation was in front of them.

They certainly took advantage, overwhelming the Hornets with 27 free-throw attempts and assisting on 14 of their 26 made baskets. Harding finished with a season-high 36 points, including a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe, while Chapman — again — did a bit of everything, tallying 16 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and a steal.

When asked about Chapman’s recent performances — in which he’s averaging 15.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, three blocks and shooting 47.3-percent from deep — Harding said Chapman “does all the little things” and also called him a “great leader.”

His coach agrees.

“He’s been practicing really well, he’s been showing really good leadership, he’s really given himself up for the team with his voice, with his energy in practice,” Rahe said.

The Wildcats closed the first half on a 23-6 run and led 40-28 heading into halftime. The margin never dropped under nine for the rest of the game.

Still, problems persisted for Weber early on in the game. In the first 8:05, they committed seven turnovers, and by the time Pinky Wiley’s jumper splashed through the bottom of the net, Weber trailed 22-17.

But then came the avalanche of points. Freshmen Caleb Nero (4 points, two assists) checked in and promptly knocked down a jumper; and moments later, he teamed with Cody John (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Dima Zdor (six points, four rebounds) on a pair of baskets. From there, it was all Wildcats heading into halftime.

“When you get that kind of spark off the bench, it’s crucial to your team,” Rahe said of the sequence.

As authoritative as Weber’s lead looked, though, the Hornets found ways to narrow the gap in the second half. They shrunk the margin to nine, multiple times, the most pivotal being with 3:23 remaining in the game.

Then, WSU managed — finally — to kill their last gasp. Braxton and Harding combined for 9 points, with the former also forcing a steal. Together, they made free-throws and defended. Harding drained a 3-pointer. Braxton dunked.

“We all had to be more aggressive,” Harding said.


Before the game, Weber State honored former head coach Ron Abegglen, who died on Wednesday at 81, with a moment of silence. Abegglen, the university’s third-winningest men’s basketball coach, won 152 games and three Big Sky titles in eight seasons (1991-99) at Weber. The Vernal native also guided the Wildcats to two NCAA Tournament upsets, defeating Michigan State and North Carolina in 1995 and 1999, respectively, before eventually retiring from coaching in 2001. He then went on to help manage the Paradise Golf Resort in Fillmore. Follow Dillon on Twitter @dillondanderson.

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